Summary of NATO’s Quantum Technologies Strategy
- Recent advancements in quantum technologies are bringing us closer to a profound shift for science and technology – one that will have far-reaching implications for our economies, security and defence. These technologies could revolutionise sensing; imaging; precise positioning, navigation and timing; communications; computing; modelling; simulation; and information science. Quantum technologies have potentially revolutionary and disruptive implications, which can degrade the Alliance’s ability to deter and defend. Quantum technologies are therefore an element of strategic competition.
- Quantum technologies have the potential to offer capabilities in computing, communications and situational awareness that are unparalleled to technology currently available to the Alliance and that could constitute a significant strategic advantage. However, quantum technologies can equally enable our strategic competitors and potential adversaries.
Strategic Vision: A Quantum-ready Alliance
- To become a quantum-ready Alliance, NATO and Allies will foster the development of a secure, resilient and competitive quantum ecosystem that is able to respond to the fast pace of technological competition in the quantum industry. This requires coherence in investment, cooperation among Allies in technology development opportunities, development and protection of skilled workforce, and increased situational awareness as well as information sharing. It will also require development and deployment of critical enabling technologies that quantum technologies require. It is equally important to deter and defend our own systems and networks against quantum-enabled and other attacks.
- To achieve the strategic ambition of becoming a quantum-ready Alliance, NATO and Allies will harness quantum technologies in support of the Alliance’s core tasks, driving toward the following desired outcomes:
- Allies and NATO have identified the most promising military and dual-use quantum applications, experiments, and integration of quantum technologies that meet defence planning and capability development requirements;
- NATO has developed, adopted and implemented frameworks, policies and standards for both software and hardware to enhance interoperability;
- Allies have cooperated in the development of quantum technologies with a view to maintain NATO’s technological edge and Allies’ abilities in the field;
- NATO has identified, understood and capitalised on evolving quantum technologies advancements, including with enabling technologies and in convergence with other EDTs;
- NATO has a Transatlantic Quantum Community to strategically engage with government, industry and academia from across our innovation ecosystems;
- NATO has transitioned its cryptographic systems to quantum-safe cryptography;
- Relevant quantum strategies, policies and action plans are dynamically updated and executed; and
- Allies have become aware of, and act to prevent, on a voluntary basis, adversarial investments and interference into our quantum ecosystems, which can include, on a national basis, the examination of relevant supply chains.
- Further, NATO will provide the leading transatlantic forum for quantum technologies in defence and security, helping to continuously build on our shared understanding, and leveraging the potential of quantum technologies while safeguarding against its adversarial use.
Fostering a Quantum-Ready Alliance
- Allies and NATO must urgently accelerate the development of quantum technologies that can augment our capabilities, as well as prevent the formation of new capability gaps in a world where peer competitors adopt quantum technologies themselves. Given the dual-use nature of quantum technologies, this advantage can only be achieved if done in close cooperation with Allied quantum ecosystems. Allies and NATO must adopt a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach to integrating quantum technologies considerations in the implementation of our operational concepts, defence planning cycles, capability development cycles, and standardisation efforts.
- As DIANA and the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF) become fully operational, their deep-tech activities will also inform NATO’s strategic approach to quantum technologies and reinforce NATO’s engagement with the Allied quantum ecosystem.
- The convergence between quantum technologies and other EDTs brings important defence and security implications, and potential military applications and capabilities. Examples include using quantum sensors to improve space-based data collection and to enable positioning, navigation and timing capabilities without having to rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems.
- NATO recognises that one of the most critical resources in the pursuit of quantum advantage is talent, which will be a critical determinant of the Alliance’s future trajectory in this domain. As quantum technologies gain traction, so will the demand for experts with advanced degrees in the field.
- While quantum technologies have less obvious ethical implications relative to other EDTs such as AI, autonomy or biotechnology and human enhancement, Allies and NATO are nevertheless committed to instituting a responsible approach to quantum technologies innovation. This will cover three main areas: links to data privacy, anticipation of international norms development, and sustainability considerations.
- NATO committees will also serve as platforms for Allies to exchange and cohere views on burgeoning quantum-related norms in international security, as they develop. Allies will exchange views at NATO, in line with this Strategy, and in light of other international fora.
- To inform a comprehensive treatment of the risks and opportunities of the field of quantum technologies, the Data and AI Review Board (DARB) can offer its advice on the implications of developments in data and AI for quantum technologies.
A Transatlantic Quantum Community
- A quantum-ready Alliance requires, first and foremost, a closer cooperation among Allies, and a resilient quantum ecosystem that extends beyond availability of appropriate funding. Successful scale up and adoption of quantum technologies also depends on availability of enabling technologies and effective links between new research breakthroughs and engineering methods. Quantum technologies are particularly reliant on enabling technologies. For example, quantum computers require precise metrology tools, secure manufacturing capabilities of specialised manufacturing and cryogenics.
- End users and defence industry leaders play a crucial role in translating promising quantum technologies use cases into capabilities at scale. NATO is uniquely positioned to broker opportunities made possible by EDTs with industry, governments, and end users. The fast pace of development of quantum technologies calls for a coherent approach to this type of coordination and alignment among Allies, which will be provided by the establishment of a Transatlantic Quantum Community.
Protecting the Alliance from the Quantum Threat
- Quantum technologies have a double-edged impact on cyber security and defence, benefitting both the defensive as well as the offensive side. If fully adopted, functional quantum technologies would allow private and public actors in the Alliance to better protect their data and communications in a way that is fast and reliable. A quantum-ready Alliance will be better able to detect and block potential incursions in cyberspace.
- A functional quantum computer would also have the ability to break current cryptographic protocols.
- Today, post-quantum cryptography is an important approach to secure communications against quantum-enabled attacks. In the future, further improvements could allow quantum key distribution to also contribute to secure communications.
- Through NATO committees and bodies Allies can support each other, and the NATO Enterprise, in the development and implementation of post-quantum cryptography and quantum key distribution to enhance the quantum-resilience of our networks. NATO will continue to support research into the transition to quantum-safe communications across air, space, cyber, land and maritime domains.
- Strategic competitors and potential adversaries may also leverage disinformation opportunities within Allied societies by creating public distrust of the military use of quantum technologies. Allies will seek to prevent and counter any such efforts through the use of strategic communications. NATO will support Allies as required.