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GAO Spotlights Quantum Technologies

By IQT News posted 29 May 2020

(GAO.gov) Quantum technologies could revolutionize sensors, computation, and communication. As a result, they could strengthen the country’s national security position and better protect sensitive and classified information, although many years of development may be needed to do so. NOTE: This document is in the series produced for congressional information needs.

Quantum technologies may enable the following advances, assuming extensive technological progress:
Improve measurement. Quantum sensors may be able to locate previously invisible or stealth targets, or determine an object’s location and speed, even if GPS is jammed or spoofed, or if a satellite link is lost.
Enable secure communication. Quantum communications may eventually allow for completely secure quantum digital signatures, secure sharing of sensitive and classified information, or other applications.
Solve complex computational problems. Quantum computers may one day be able to quickly complete tasks that classical computers cannot carry out efficiently—such as factoring large numbers, a task central to cracking current cryptographic systems.
Create a quantum internet. Future communication technologies may be able to securely transmit information between quantum computers. The resulting quantum internet would be inaccessible to outside computers, because any attempts to access the network would reveal a hacker’s presence.

Policy Context and Questions:

Quantum technologies will require additional years of development and could revolutionize how people measure, communicate, and compute. The development of such technologies raises many policy questions:

  • How can the United States build a workforce with the diverse, cross-cutting skills needed to develop quantum technologies?
  • What are the national security implications of other nations developing quantum technologies? How might the United States prepare and respond? What are the implications of quantum sensor technologies that could track stealth targets?
  • What are the implications of a quantum computer being able to break present-day encryption schemes?

NOTE: The GAO meets congressional information needs in several ways, including by providing oversight, insight, and foresight on science and technology issues. GAO staff are available to brief on completed bodies of work or specific reports and answer follow-up questions. GAO also provides targeted assistance on specific science and technology topics to support congressional oversight activities and provide advice on legislative proposals

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