Government Officials Optimistic About U.S. Semiconductor Industry

Mykola Pokhodzhay/Getty Images

Congressional and White House officials discussed how to best implement and sustain new domestic microprocessor production laws.

Headlining a panel at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, Arati Prabhakar, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, confirmed that through key legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, the U.S. is strengthening its global technological leadership––a position that the U.S. hasn’t always held.

“What I would tell you is that our institutions and our mindsets, in general, are still those that were shaped in the post-World War II era, and that assume a particular world order and assume that we have decades of technological advantage in every area,” she said. “And that's just not the world anymore.”

She explained that producing semiconductor and microprocessor technologies, as well as cutting off dependence on adversarial countries like China, will help the U.S. economy be more competitive. 

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., added that given widespread supply chain interruptions caused partially by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should be subsidizing internal production to avoid supply chain bottlenecks. 

“It's one thing to have a business plan,” he said. “It's another thing to implement it effectively.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said that while the bills to support this manufacturing agenda have been signed into law, funding still needs to be appropriated across each industry. He noted that the focus has now turned to finding a strong, skilled workforce to maintain new semiconductor facilities, like the new Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company hub based in Phoenix, Arizona. 

In addition to facilities that can manufacture microchips, Young noted the U.S. still needs to forecast other input materials that will need to be sourced from “trusted partners,” such as critical minerals. 

Prabhakar said she is confident that the federal government can implement programs and the manufacturing capacity outlined in recent legislation to develop a strong semiconductor manufacturing sector. 

Prabhakar referenced her time leading the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency prior to her current appointment, saying that while her office and other collaborating agencies, such as the Department of Commerce, are doing more than research and development, they share success in partnerships with academia and the private sector.

“I think that partnership framework and mindset is important,” she said.