House Science chairman looks to pass quantum bill

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla, is looking to get Congress to pass a bill advancing research into quantum computing.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla, is looking to get Congress to pass a bill advancing research into quantum computing. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., highlighted the importance of National Quantum Initiative Reauthorization Act passage and steady funding for federal research agencies.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is looking to make a bill authorizing quantum computing research and development a priority for lawmakers.

Following a unanimous vote out of committee with 19 amendments in November, the National Quantum Initiative Reauthorization Act is ready to move to the House floor for a final vote. Lucas told Nextgov/FCW that, following the conclusion of appropriations talks, the National Quantum Initiative Reauthorization Act can advance into a vote and future Senate negotiations. 

“With bills like reauthorizing on quantum — and there's a variety of other things working on Science Committee — I think we can…create the platform from which we can persuade the appropriators and leadership and, hopefully, my colleagues in the House and my friends on the other side in the Senate, that these are priorities,” he said. 

The National Quantum Initiative Reauthorization Act features updates that focus on moving beyond fundamental research in quantum mechanics and related technological systems to address things like developing a workforce fluent in quantum information sciences and building a bridge toward tech commercialization. The 2018 legislation that launched federal research into quantum expired at the end of fiscal year 2023.

A notable difference between the original text of the 2018 NQIA and the 2024 reauthorization is the inclusion of artificial intelligence in quantum sciences and technology research. Lucas said that marriage of these two emerging technologies present in the reauthorization can help maximize and evolve both systems. 

“AI is a part of fully utilizing quantum computing, it's just hand in glove,” he said. 

Beyond quantum and AI, Lucas noted his committee will be looking to pursue other pieces of scientific and technical legislation in future.

“If there is a window or windows of opportunity to go to the floor, to work with the [Senate], whether it's weather, or NASA or commercial space, or this AI Task Force that’s being stood up by leadership… I think you might be surprised how much work product the Science, Space and Technology committee will get done,” he said.

Lucas’s ambitions to bring more tech-centric legislation through the House follow proposed 2024 fiscal year funding cuts to notable scientific research agencies, namely the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and National Science Foundation.

Lucas said he doesn’t “necessarily agree” with each appropriations bill component.

“The appropriations process this time is not anything that I've ever seen before,” he said. “But the bottom line is this: we had to finish the appropriation process for last year…so we can begin to prioritize the future.”