Senate bill would direct DOD to create a quantum computing consortium

Photograph of a chip constructed by D-Wave Systems Inc. designed to operate as a 128-qubit processor, mounted in a sample holder. (D-Wave Systems/Wikimedia)

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A new bill from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., aims to leverage the Department of Defense’s foremost research entities into a central consortium that would tackle advances in quantum information science.

The Quantum Computing Research Act of 2018, which Harris introduced Tuesday, would direct the DOD to form the Quantum Computing Research Consortium to oversee research and grant funding to address the development of quantum communication and quantum computing technology.

“Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world and we cannot afford to fall behind,” Harris said in a statement Thursday. “And without adequate research and coordination in quantum computing, we risk falling behind our global competition in the cyberspace race which leaves us vulnerable to attacks from our adversaries. We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology – our future depends on it.”

The incipient potential of the emerging technology has drawn a lot of attention recently, mostly because its processors work with quantum bits, or qubits, that exist as both a one and a zero at the same time, providing significantly more computing power than current technology and posing a threat to modern cryptography systems.

But while the technology is still developing and global investment is abounding, there is also a need to work out the possibilities of quantum software and other applications. The consortium aims to address those issues, as well as quantum computer development, under the umbrella of quantum information science.

The consortium would be a partnership of various defense, federal, industry and academic research entities selected by the chief of the Office of Naval Research in the eastern half of the nation and the director of the Army Research Laboratory in the western half. Those two would oversee the consortium with the assistant director for quantum information science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other experts. The board would award grants, facilitate partnerships and assist in quantum information science research within the group.

The move follows the Senate’s commitment of $20 million for quantum research in its draft version of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

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Army Research Lab, Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Office of Science and Technology, quantum computing, quantum information science