In January, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) convened leaders from government, industry, and academia at a roundtable to discuss plans for addressing the requirements of National Security Memorandum 10 (NSM-10) on Promoting United States Leadership in Quantum Computing While Mitigating Risks to Vulnerable Cryptographic Systems and the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act of 2022.

Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers leverage the collective properties of quantum states to process information. Accordingly, quantum computers have the ability to perform some calculations much faster than regular computers. Quantum computers of sufficient size and scale may offer enormous benefits to society, but they may also incidentally have the ability to break many commonly used forms of modern encryption therefore posing a cybersecurity risk to our nation’s digital infrastructure. While quantum computing technology brings opportunity, the United States must ensure it is ready to mitigate the risk that quantum computers present to protect our nation’s most sensitive information.  

At the roundtable, several senior officials delivered remarks emphasizing the importance of encryption technology to privacy and security in delivery of critical government services. In addition, they underscored the need for implementation of zero trust cybersecurity defenses on Federal and critical infrastructure networks.

Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana said, “Strong encryption is a foundational technology that underpins safety, privacy, trust, and competitiveness across the digital economy and our society. It unlocks innovation by securing it.”

“Quantum computers have the potential to drive innovation across the American economy,” said Gretchen Campbell, Deputy Director of the National Quantum Coordination Office. “While the full range of applications of quantum computers is still unknown, it is nevertheless clear that America’s continued technological and scientific leadership will depend, at least in part, on the Nation’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage in quantum computing and quantum information science.”

Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technology Caitlin Clarke said, “NSM-10 underscores our commitment to ensuring that our Nation’s cyber defenses remain resilient in the coming era of quantum computing” and highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to improving Federal Government and critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

Participants echoed the importance and timeliness of the discussion, and stressed the need for continued collaboration.

At the close of the roundtable, Federal Chief Information Security Officer and Deputy National Cyber Director for Federal Chris DeRusha delivered remarks, saying, “Continuing to promote strong encryption standards and methodologies is a key underpinning of our cyber defenses.  And in many cases encryption is our first and last defense against advanced malicious cyber actors.  Mitigating the risk of quantum capabilities will require a whole-of-government approach and we will continue to engage with stakeholders from industry and academia to inform migration efforts.”  

OMB, OSTP, and members of the interagency post-quantum cryptography (PQC) migration working group will continue to engage with experts both inside and outside government as agencies plan for PQC migration consistent with NSM-10 and the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act of 2022.


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