SAN FRANCISCO — White House officials on Monday unveiled plans to increase federal funding for the development of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, two cutting-edge technologies that defense officials say will play a key role in national security.
The funding, part of the Trump administration’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal, would direct more money for AI research to the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation. The administration also wants to spend $25 million on what it calls a national “quantum internet,” a network of machines designed to make it much harder to intercept digital communication.
For several years, technologists have urged the Trump administration to back research on artificial intelligence — which could affect things as diverse as weapons and transportation — and quantum computing, a new way to build super-powerful computers. China’s government, in particular, has made building these machines a priority, and some national security experts worry that the United States is at risk of falling behind.
The proposed spending follows earlier administration moves. In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a law that earmarked $1.2 billion for quantum research. The Energy Department recently began distributing its portion of that money — about $625 million — to research labs in industry, academia and government.
“The dollars we have put into quantum information science have increased by about fivefold over the last three years,” said Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for science at the Energy Department, in an interview.
Last year, Trump signed an executive order that made AI research and development a national priority.
The new budget proposal would increase funding for artificial intelligence research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research arm of the Defense Department, to $249 million from $50 million, and at the National Science Foundation to $850 million from about $500 million. The administration also vowed to double funding for AI and quantum computing research outside the Defense Department by 2022.
Big tech companies have invested heavily in AI research over the past decade. But many experts have worried that universities and government labs have lost much of their talent to businesses. Under the new funding plan, the National Science Foundation would apply $50 million to help train AI experts.
The world’s biggest technology companies, from Google in the United States to Alibaba in China, are also racing to build a quantum computer, a new kind of machine that could be used to break the encryption that protects digital information. Researchers are using the same scientific principles to create new technology that could withstand such an attack.
In 2017, after four years of planning and construction, China unveiled a dedicated quantum communication network between Beijing and Shanghai. Two Chinese provinces invested $80 million in the project. It has also tested quantum encryption techniques via satellite.
With the $25 million, the Energy Department would build a network connecting its 17 national research labs, which include Los Alamos in New Mexico and Argonne outside Chicago. Using this test network, researchers would explore quantum encryption technologies with an eye toward creating a secure network across the country.
“This is a test bed for new technologies,” said David Awschalom, a professor at the University of Chicago who oversees much of the university’s quantum research and would play a role in the effort at the national labs. “We are using the power of the national labs to fuel the country.”