NIST Needs Lawyers to Help Administer $50B in CHIPS Act Funds


The agency is charged with issuing grants and loans, in addition to setting up new research institutes, and needs up to $10 million in legal advice.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is playing an integral role in the latest effort to boost domestic production of semiconductors and other microelectronics—including disbursing some $50 billion in new funding—and could really use some legal advice.

The agency issued a solicitation for a nearly $10 million contract for legal services to help manage its duties under the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors, or CHIPS, and Science Act of 2022, signed into law last August.

As part of the $280 billion bill, the Commerce Department was allocated $39 billion to be disbursed to the manufacturing community in the form of loans, grants, guarantees and the like.

“With these funds, the department will establish an incentives program to support the expansion of manufacturing capacity for mature nodes and to attract large-scale investments in advanced technologies such as leading-edge logic and memory,” the solicitation states.

The bill also includes $11 billion to create a National Semiconductor Technology Center and up to three manufacturing institutes “to advance research and commercialization of semiconductor manufacturing technologies, and to carry out a R&D program to advance measurement science, standards, material characterization, instrumentation, testing and manufacturing capabilities.”

As NIST establishes these centers and the formats for the grants and loans, the agency will need specific, expert legal advice for crafting agreements and ensuring they meet the letter of the law. As such, the contract will consist of several “core teams” capable of giving input and drafting legal language as needed.

“The core team members shall be highly qualified attorneys and remain available on a priority basis to undertake task order requirements for the duration of the contract,” the solicitation states, specifying that each team must consist of at least: one client lead with at least 10 years of experience; one lead corporate partner with at least 10 years of experience; one lead senior associate or lead counsel with at least seven years of relevant experience; and one lead mid-level associate with at least five years of experience.

The contract is being set up as an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, or IDIQ, agreement, for which there will be multiple awardees that NIST can choose from as needed. Each winner awarded a spot on the contract will be guaranteed at least $50,000—even if they never get a task order—with a maximum spend capped at $9.9 million.

The contract will have a one-year base period with four one-year add-on options.

Along with the call for lawyers, NIST has also put out requests for public comment on how the funding should be allocated.