D-Wave is doubling down on plans to sell to the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense, this time partnering with Virginia Tech to increase access to its quantum computers among employees of the national security sector.

As part of the collaboration, the two groups will ‘work towards’ creating a permanent quantum computing center housing a D-Wave system at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.

D-Wave 2000Q
– D-Wave

Quantum security theater

“Both D-Wave and Virginia Tech recognize how vital it is that quantum computing be accessible to a broad community of experts focused on solving real-world problems,” Bo Ewald, president of D-Wave International, said.

“One of the many reasons we chose to work with Virginia Tech is their strong relationships with the intelligence and defense communities. A key area of focus will be to work with federal agencies towards the creation of a quantum computing center at the Hume Center.”

The Hume Center at Virginia Tech focuses on cyber security and autonomy in regards to national security. The department says that research initiatives currently underway include cyber-physical system security, orchestrated missions, and the convergence of cyber warfare and electronic warfare.

Mark Goodwin, deputy director and COO of the Hume Center, added: “Establishing a quantum computing center at the Hume Center will advance our mission of supporting national security, and provide access to technology that few researchers can leverage today. Working closely with D-Wave supports that goal in a meaningful, immediate way.”

In the emerging, incredibly complex and contentious field of quantum computing, disagreement still persists over the nature of D-Wave’s systems, which many do not see as a ‘true quantum computer.’

While the Canadian company’s latest product is the world’s first 2,000 qubit machine, it is unclear if the qubits remain in a quantum state long enough, or if enough entanglement occurs, for the system to be able to solve truly complex equations.

Google - which this week upgraded the D-Wave it shares with NASA to the D-Wave 2000Q - is thought to be working on a prototype quantum computer with just 50 qubits. But, those qubits “are way higher quality,” the University of Texas’ Scott Aaronson told the New Scientist last year.

Nonetheless, D-Wave’s systems have found a market, particularly in the defense sector. Lockheed Martin became one of the company’s first clients, and last year the firm formed a subsidiary focused on selling to the US Government

D-Wave management recruited a board of ex-NSA, Navy, Air Force, and CIA executives, as well as René Copeland, previously the head of sales to the US government for SGI, Cray, Platform Computing and others. Then, earlier this year, D-Wave revealed it had sold its first 2000Q to Temporal Defense Systems, an obscure cyber security government contractor with links to Gryphon Technologies.

This push into the lucrative defense sector comes as Trump’s administration seeks a $54 billion boost in military spending, and the nation increasingly sees cyber space as a vital battleground. 

At the opening of the new US Cyber Command in December last year, then-Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning said: “Cyber space can be considered the ultimate high ground, which means that in modern conflicts, ceding cyber space invites defeat.”

But clarity over the US government’s long term plan when it comes to investment in supercomputers, quantum computers and cyber defense remains elusive.

Currently, the Secretary of the Army - responsible, among other things for government procurement and the Pentagon’s data center consolidation efforts - is Robert Speer, who is acting under a provisional basis. 

Trump’s nominee, billionaire Vincent Viola, who made his fortune with high speed electronic trading firm Virtu, withdrew his name from consideration over a reported inability to get around defense department rules concerning his private businesses.

D-Wave’s Ewald has also previously said the company could target the Department of Energy, but the DoE could see its budget reduced by half as the Trump administration plans to cut $54 billion from domestic non-discretionary spending outside of the military.