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IBM's Q System One quantum computer.

Under the US2QC program, DARPA will work with and provide funding to Microsoft, Atom, and PsiQuantum as they develop a design concept for a “utility-scale” quantum computer.

Credit: IBM

Fujitsu may not be worried about encryption busting quantum computers showing up anytime soon, but that doesn't mean the U.S. government is willing to risk missing out.

This week the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), the U.S. military's boffin brain farm, announced a new endeavor, called the Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program, to explore novel quantum system designs, and tapped Microsoft, Atom, and PsiQuantum to help.

"Experts disagree on whether a utility-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is still decades away or could be achieved much sooner," Joe Altepeter, who leads DARPA's US2QC program, said in a statement. "The goal of US2QC is to reduce the danger of strategic surprise from underexplored quantum computing systems."

In other words, if it is possible to build a quantum computer capable of breaking through encryption or compromising the United States' defenses in any capacity, DARPA doesn't want to be caught playing catch up with rival nations.

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