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Congress Seeks to Promote U.S. Leadership in Quantum Computing


On 26 June, the leaders of the key House and Senate science and technology committees announced introduction of the National Quantum Initiative Act (H.R. 6227), bi-partisan legislation designed to accelerate and coordinate U.S. public and private quantum science research, standards, and workforce development, with the goal of giving the United States a competitive advantage vis-à-vis China and Europe.

U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who serve, respectively, as the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, joined with U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to announce the companion bills.

All four sponsors warned of the risk to the United States of falling behind as other nations are rapidly developing their own quantum programs, and praised the bill as a critical step to securing U.S. leadership in the quantum sector.

Quantum computers are projected to perform complex calculations at speeds potentially millions of times faster than today’s most advanced supercomputers. Applications of quantum technology are expected to profoundly impact computing-intensive fields, such as communication security, navigation and imaging, as well as enabling new technologies not currently possible with conventional computing systems.

Smith noted that: “the bill creates a 10-year federal program that will significantly develop our quantum knowledge. It will bring a whole-of-government approach to advance quantum information science (QIS) to the next level of research and development, while also creating public-private partnerships and leveraging the resources and expertise of government, industry and academia. Through new research facilities and a strong workforce pipeline, students and researchers will have greater resources and opportunities to develop their quantum skills and create the next great computing innovation.”

Key provisions of the bill include new authority to:

  • Establish a National Quantum Coordination Office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate policy and plans, oversee interagency coordination, provide strategic planning support, serve as a central point of contact for stakeholders, conduct outreach and promote commercialization of federal research by the private sector.
  • Allocate $1.275 billion in federal appropriations from 2019 to 2023 for quantum research at three agencies, including:
    • $400 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support basic QIS research and standards development.
    • $625 million for the Department of Energy to fund basic research programs and DOE research centers.
    • $250 million for the National Science Foundation to invest in basic research and quantum research and education centers.
  • Assure that U.S. high-tech companies, which are investing heavily in quantum research, and a wave of quantum technology start-ups will contribute their knowledge and resources to a national effort
  • Address fundamental research gaps, create a stronger workforce pipeline and take the lead in developing quantum standards and measures for global use, and thereby give U.S. companies and workers an enduring competitive advantage.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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