White House budget proposal would hike AI and quantum funding by 30 percent

It's determined to stay ahead of China.

Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If the US is going to build a quantum internet and otherwise claim technical supremacy, it’s going to need appropriate funding — and that might be forthcoming. As the Wall Street Journal reports, The White House has proposed a 2021 non-defense budget that includes a roughly 30 percent increase in spending on AI and quantum computing. It would spend about $1.5 billion on AI work (versus $1.12 billion in 2020) and $699 million on quantum technology (versus $579 million).

About $25 million of that spending would go toward the quantum internet plan. Other funds would go toward AI research institutes from agencies like the Agriculture Department and National Science Foundation. Other elements of the proposal aren’t as specific, but emphasize the need for AI in healthcare (particularly during the pandemic) and “advanced manufacturing” for the next wave of quantum computing devices.

It’s not surprising why the US would devote more money to these efforts. US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios stressed that the country needed to be “winning and leading” not just in present-day technology, but also that which would “define our future.” It’s concerned that countries like China might claim an edge, and the extra spending theoretically helps.

The White House ultimately aims to boost AI spending to over $2 billion by 2022, with quantum science funding reaching $860 million.

Whether or not the administration reaches its goals isn’t clear. The 2021 budget still has to clear both sides of Congress, and that’s not guaranteed when many other issues could be under dispute. The November election could also affect long-term plans — a new administration wouldn’t necessarily cut funding, but there could easily be a change in direction.

This article contains affiliate links; if you click such a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission.