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White House Issues New Requirements to Prepare for Quantum Computation

The White House issued new requirements today for federal agencies to prepare for the expected obsolescence of current public-key cryptography technologies at an unspecified future date when practical quantum computing applications are available. National Security Memorandum 10 (NSM-10) details the necessity for “a whole-of-government and whole‑of‑society strategy” for quantum information science (QIS), including “the security enhancements provided by quantum-resistant cryptography,” although it does not specify a timeline for when QIS will be a practical concern for current cryptographic practices. The memorandum directs NIST to publish new standards and tasks other agencies, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), to establish requirements for inventorying all federal cryptographic systems, as well as creating outreach programs for the private sector on transitioning to quantum-resistance cryptography (QRC).

Analyst Notes

Numerous government and private entities invest considerable annual research funding into QIS and QRC. Small-scale, proof-of-concept quantum computers are already in use and even commercially available. The mathematics necessary for practical applications of QIS are still being developed – therefore, Binary Defense analysts do not consider widespread quantum computing applications to be on a practical horizon for at least ten years and possibly quite longer, unless a yet unknown breakthrough creates a quantum leap forward in the field. If such a breakthrough were available, or in development on a shorter timeline, the White House would likely be appraised of its existence. However, it is most likely that this memorandum is an attempt to appropriately change over infrastructure well in advance of practical necessity in order to ensure an orderly, well-executed transition in public key cryptography.