The U.S. is looking to accelerate its quantum computing and post-quantum security push as it works to remain resilient in the face of the breakneck speed of research in the field. President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed two directives relating to the quantum push - an Executive Order creating the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, as well as a memorandum. Both aim to outline the U.S. priorities' in quantum computing leadership and the hardening of its information systems against quantum-based attacks on its sovereignty.
The now instated National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee will operate under the authority of the White House and is comprised of up to 26 president-appointed experts hailing from industry, academia, and federal laboratories. The Committee will thus become the main stakeholder in reviewing the country's quantum strategy. To that effect, the Committee will be able to solicit information from governmental agencies, private entities, and academia regarding their quantum computing developments, while also serving as a trusted source of information for the president, his Office, and legislative efforts.
The memorandum, on the other hand, focuses on taking stock of currently deployed cryptographic algorithms in preparation for the country's federal and state-level IT infrastructure integration of quantum-resistant cryptography. Attributed to the US Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the effort is a monumental one: implementing post-quantum cryptography will undoubtedly present issues in terms of infrastructure interoperability. The chosen post-quantum cryptography standards will have to be deployed throughout several information systems from disparate agencies and branches, all while maintaining the ability to share confidential information with each other.
"Implementing approved quantum-resistant cryptographic solutions across all of our systems will not happen overnight, but it's critical that we chart a path to get there considering the potential threat of quantum computing," said Rob Joyce, NSA Cybersecurity Director and Deputy National Manager for National Security Systems.
The work on standardizing post-quantum cryptography has been handed over to NIST back in 2016 - yet the work continues, likely bolstered by the seemingly unending flurry of research lines and breakthroughs in the quantum space. Understandably, the need to standardize for a moving, and simultaneously unmoving, target is a hard task to chew.
The move by the Biden administration is but the latest in a slew that aims to ensure the country's hegemony when it comes to one of the next frontiers in computing and electronic warfare systems. Specifically in its crosshairs is China. The ongoing trade war is but a symptom of the larger problem: the threat posed by China's rising economic and military grunt, as well as its strategic control of computing-related resources.
Last November, the U.S. Department of Commerce added 28 additional entries to its Entity List — companies sanctioned due to their alleged connections to China's governmental and military efforts. Eight of those were sanctioned specifically due to their contributions to China's military applications for quantum computing.