While Artificial Intelligence (AI) has primarily taken the spotlight when it comes to technology policy debates across federal and state legislatures, another emerging technology, quantum computing, has quickly gained the attention of federal policymakers this Congress.
Quantum computing is a rapidly advancing technology that can solve computationally hard problems potentially faster than purely classical computing. Quantum computing technologies available today are helping businesses and governments address optimization challenges such as logistics and supply chain management, transportation and autonomous vehicle routing, and emergency response.
While the National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently working on standards to migrate to post-quantum cryptography to protect data, Congress is exploring the benefits of quantum computing. As a result, there is growing bipartisan support among lawmakers to incorporate today’s near-term quantum technologies, which are commercially available, to solve public sector problems. A number of bills have been introduced encouraging the use of today’s quantum technologies and developing quantum applications. For example, legislation utilizing quantum technologies to help optimize emergency response during wildfires and a new law establishing a quantum pilot program within the Department of Defense to address problems facing our nation’s military and defense systems.
As Congress resumes in the new year, reauthorization of the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQI) will be a focus for Members of Congress as the NQI, which was signed into law in 2018, expired in September 2023.
The first of its kind, the 2018 NQI called for a coordinated federal program to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the U.S. as other world leaders, like Japan, the U.K., Australia, and Germany, invest in and expand their use of quantum technologies. Late last year, bipartisan leaders in the House Science Committee advanced legislation to reauthorize and expand the NQI program to help close the gap between the U.S. and other countries. The bill passed out of the House Science Committee late last year and now awaits action on the House floor, but introduction of legislation and timing in the Senate is still unknown.
While the must-pass NQI reauthorization remains on hold, bipartisan support for legislation supporting the development of near-term quantum applications to solve challenging public-sector problems continues to grow. But as we’ve seen in recent years, Congress continues to race against time to catch up legislatively to rapidly advancing technology fields – whether it’s AI, quantum, or other emerging technologies.