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Biden to sign executive order, national security memo to advance quantum technologies

President Biden is expected to sign an executive order and a national security memo Wednesday to advance quantum information science in an effort to place the United States in a position to be able to “leapfrog well ahead” of adversaries and mitigate risks that the emerging technology poses to national and economic security.

A senior administration official said the U.S. has “long been a global leader” in the development of new technologies, including quantum, a broad field of science and engineering.

Quantum technologies are not a replacement to traditional computers, but rather a “fundamentally different kind of computer” with the ability to analyze information in ways that traditional computers cannot. Quantum technologies, according to officials, have shown the potential to drive innovation in the American economy.

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“The goal of both the executive order and the National Strategy Memorandum is to ensure that we leapfrog well ahead of everyone else, both by promoting quantum information science and the benefits it can potentially bring from energy to medicine, in various areas of the economy, as well as to begin what will likely be a decade long transition to protect our systems from an adversary having a potential quantum computer,” a senior administration official said.

The official added: “America must start the lengthy process of updating our IT infrastructure today to protect against this quantum computing threat tomorrow.”

The president’s executive order is set to “foster” those advances by committing to promoting those breakthroughs. The order is set to enhance the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, which is the federal government’s advisory body for quantum information science and technology, by placing it under the authority of the White House.

A senior administration official said the move would ensure the president, Congress, federal departments and agencies, and the general public receive “the most current, accurate and relative quantum information, science and technology to drive forward U.S. policymaking in this area.”

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The president is also set to sign a national security memo outlining his administration’s plans to address the risks posed by quantum computers to America’s cybersecurity.

“Current research shows that at some point in the not too distant future, when quantum information science matures and quantum computers are able to reach a sufficient size and level of sophistication, they’ll be capable breaking much of the cryptography that currently secures our digital communications,” a senior administration official said.

But, the official stressed that cybersecurity and technological innovation are not in conflict.

“They underscore the president’s commitment to fostering innovation and cutting edge science and technology while continuing to take the necessary steps to safeguard the economy and infrastructure of the future,” the official said. “This balanced approach of both foster, promote and protect rests on the president’s conviction that cybersecurity and technological innovation are not in conflict. but rather are complementary and essential to the success of one another.”

The president’s national security memo sets requirements for federal agencies to update those cryptographic systems and directs agencies to develop “comprehensive plans to safeguard American intellectual property, research and development and other sensitive technology” from being acquired by adversaries.

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