White House Launches New Committee to Advise on Quantum Efforts

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It’s all part of a continuing initiative to sustain American leadership in the quantum space.

President Trump established the government’s first National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee through an executive order signed late Friday.

According to the order, bringing together a versatile group of experts to advise federal insiders on a wide range of critical quantum matters is meant to help the administration “ensure continued American leadership in quantum information science and technology applications.” 

The committee’s establishment was directed in the National Quantum Initiative Act, which the president signed late last year in an effort to accelerate America’s research and development in the increasingly competitive global quantum landscape. On top of directing the president to stand up the new committee, the law also directs the government to spend more than $1.2 billion to advance quantum efforts over the next five years, enables the president to implement a National Quantum Initiative Program and also made way for the Office of Science and Technology Policy to launch the National Quantum Coordination Office in March. 

Committee members will include the director of OSTP, or a designee, and “not more than” 22 quantum experts that will be selected by the Energy Secretary. Members will meet at least twice a year and will work with agency officials and other QIS stakeholders to both gain and share insights on all relevant issues in the field. They’ll be expected to advise the president and others and provide new recommendations on how to improve the National Quantum Initiative Program. According to the law, the members are meant to represent universities, laboratories, industry and other federal agencies and they’ll also have to be “qualified to provide advice and information on quantum information science and technology research, development, demonstrations, standards, education, technology transfer, commercial application, or national security and economic concerns.”

The establishment of the committee is the latest in a variety of recent federal moves to support the nation’s efforts to help sustain American leadership in the space. Quantum information science was listed as a high priority in the annual memo around research and development goals and budget priorities, launched last week. The National Defense Authorization Act for next year also includes new language on the quantum front and last week the Energy Department announced it will provide millions in funding to advance quantum research.

“This is the most movement on quantum policy we have ever had,” Paul Stimers, partner at  K&L Gates and executive director of the Quantum Industry Coalition, told Nextgov. “And that’s because we are at a moment where the field is really developing and so Congress and the administration have recognized this development, recognized that this is a race and are taking very helpful steps to make sure that we are leading that race.”

Stimers said the Coalition previously submitted a slate of recommendations to the government regarding the new advisory committee in an effort to provide input on what was to come. Now that the executive order has been signed, he said the coalition will likely re-engage on that front with the hope of ensuring that quantum industry insiders—who he believes can provide “valuable perspectives” on things like workforce development needs, the quantum technology development roadmap and how best to compete and cooperate locally—are well-represented on the committee. 

He noted that these evolving efforts to advance American QIS leadership are increasingly imperative because while the nation is currently in a good position on the international quantum landscape, its leadership is not unchallenged. 

“We lead in aspects of quantum technology but we are not leading in others,” Stimers said. “And our goal should be to lead across the entire quantum spectrum.”

In particular, China is embarking on a long-term effort to transform itself into a quantum powerhouse and is already leading the U.S in quantum communications and cryptography patent registration. For that reason and beyond, he said it’s vital that the White House stays on top of these efforts and that Congress continues to work through the appropriations process in support of the new quantum law. 

He said these feats will strengthen the nation’s position—both now, and later.

“Whether we establish a comprehensive lead or not depends on our sustained engagement, but it also depends on what our global competitors will do. China makes sustained investments in this field and we need to keep pace and do better,” he said. “But the executive order and priorities memo are ongoing evidence that the White House continues to take this very seriously. This definitely will make us better, there is no question about that.”