The Biden White House wants companies working on advances in quantum technology to work with federal security agencies to stop China from stealing American innovation.
Charles Tahan, director of the National Office for Quantum Coordination, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the government is asking companies working on research and development of new technologies to get the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security involved before problems arise.
According to the federal government's National Quantum Initiative website, advances based on quantum technologies are being used in tech products, including navigation tools for the Global Positioning System and MRI for medical care.
To stay at the forefront of new technologies, Tahan told the House Science Committee that the United States must act quickly to overtake China and cannot afford to wait for federal agencies to consider making overseas deals.
“We have to be very proactive with new technologies and educate people, help them with their cyber security and finally put in place a physical security policy and so on,” Tahan said at the hearing. "But it's still very early and we're working on it."
According to Celia Merzbacher, executive director of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, efforts are already underway to bring the quantum sector closer to the federal security services.
The federal government-funded consortium includes about 170 companies and aims to expand the quantum industry in the United States, Merzbacher said.
“In fact, to help QED-C members, I have great relationships with law enforcement in the United States and they come to talk to these companies, especially the smaller ones,” Ms. Merzbacher told lawmakers. “They don’t have a person whose full-time job is related to export control, so they need access to resources.”
As the federal government works to secure developments in quantum technologies, lawmakers fear that China is treading on the heels of the United States and trying to introduce new innovations.
House Science Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, said China and Russia are investing heavily in operational quantum systems, with China spending more than $15 billion on quantum research and development.
“We cannot allow adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party to use quantum technology against us,” Lucas said at the hearing. “Using a quantum computer, the CCP can break current encryption codes in minutes, breaking our digital defenses and exposing American businesses and citizens to severe privacy breaches.”
The federal government relies on representatives of federal agencies involved in quantum science and technology programs to help identify the security and economic challenges facing quantum technologies.
Mr. Tahan said the federal government is counting on these representatives to develop best practices in the US Research Advocacy Committee. The committee includes officials from the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy and Homeland Security, as well as representatives from the Secret Service and the White House.
From his position in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mr. Tahan helps oversee government initiatives in quantum science and technology.
“There is no perfect way to manage risk,” Tahan said. "And above all, our goal should be to act quickly."