White House Earmarks New Money for A.I. and Quantum Computing


SAN FRANCISCO — White House officials on Monday unveiled plans to increase federal funding for the development of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, two cutting-edge technologies that defense officials say will play a key role in national security.

The funding, part of the Trump administration’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal, would direct more money for A.I. research to the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation. The administration also wants to spend $25 million on what it calls a national “quantum internet,” a network of machines designed to make it much harder to intercept digital communication.

For several years, technologists have urged the Trump administration to back research on artificial intelligence — which could affect things as diverse as weapons and transportation — and quantum computing, a new way to build super-powerful computers. China’s government, in particular, has made building these machines a priority, and some national security experts worry that the United States is at risk of falling behind.

The proposed spending follows earlier administration moves. In 2018, President Trump signed a law that earmarked $1.2 billion for quantum research. The Energy Department recently began distributing its portion of that money — about $625 million — to research labs in industry, academia and government.

In 2017, after four years of planning and construction, China unveiled a dedicated quantum communication network between Beijing and Shanghai. Two Chinese provinces invested $80 million in the project. It has also tested quantum encryption techniques via satellite.

With the $25 million, the Energy Department would build a network connecting its 17 national research labs, which include Los Alamos in New Mexico and Argonne outside Chicago. Using this test network, researchers would explore quantum encryption technologies with an eye toward creating a secure network across the country.

“This is a test bed for new technologies,” said David Awschalom, a professor at the University of Chicago who oversees much of the university’s quantum research and would play a role in the effort at the national labs. “We are using the power of the national labs to fuel the country.”


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