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Members of Congress are now deciding how to vote on one of the most consequential pieces of national-security legislation in recent history: the “CHIPS” Act, dedicated to increasing US domestic manufacturing of semiconductors.
I urge them to support it. Failure to do so would be an enormous victory for the Chinese Communist Party and a massive loss of American workers and American servicemen who should not be forced to rely upon Chinese technology to protect us and them.
Semiconductors are key to the United States maintaining its technological edge now and for decades to come. The strategic landscape in this critical technology area has been shifting to our disadvantage for far too long. Less and less cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing in America and ever more semiconductor capacity inside China risks making the world subject to coercion by the Chinese Communist Party, especially given Beijing’s military threat to the democratic island of Taiwan. The CHIPS Act is our first major opportunity to reverse this dangerous strategic disadvantage and decouple this industry from China’s influence.
Beyond national security, semiconductors are found in electronics that every American uses in their daily lives, from cell phones to cars in addition to advanced military systems. Our dependence on hostile nations for these critical wafers will, much as dependence on Russian energy has done for Europe, risk catastrophic outcomes for all of us here in America.
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While the United States continues to lead in the design of semiconductor chips, our production of the components themselves has fallen behind. In 1990 the United States produced 37 percent of the world’s supply of semiconductors. Today, we produce about 10 percent, most of which are not the advanced chips that enable advanced electronic functions in our military and economy. That means the equipment our nation will deploy on present and future battlefields, from defensive radars to advanced weapons systems, relies on technology that America must now almost entirely import from foreign producers. One cannot overstate the massive risk to our economic and national security.
America must have the means to produce more semiconductors here at home. The CHIPS Act will support this capacity by offering tax credits and grants to incentivize innovation and the construction and operation of more semiconductor foundries here in the United States.
China’s ambition to be the world’s semiconductor leader underscores the urgency of the CHIPS Act. Every day, Beijing’s Communist Party-supported industries hit another production milestone, gradually reducing their dependence on the global market. China has made domination of the global semiconductor market a cornerstone of its national goals. We can retake the lead with the CHIPS Act.
American security depends on our military continuing to be the most advanced in the world. I saw the importance of our technological dominance patrolling the Berlin Wall when I commanded an M1 Abrams tank crew. Our tanks were the best in the world then, better than the Soviet’s T-72s. Today America retains this advantage. But if we lose access to the most critical component of our military systems, our adversaries will only be further emboldened, and our advantage will disappear.
In May 2020, I and others in the Trump administration helped encourage the world-leading Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) to announce $12 billion worth of investments in semiconductor production in Arizona. In the two years since, we have seen similar announcements from US firm Intel (in Ohio), US firm Micron (location TBD), South Korean firm Samsung (in Texas), and others. But deals like these are predicated on greater US government commitments to the industry. And we and the private sector must do more. Without CHIPS, the number of investments will shrink.
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Opponents of CHIPS have criticized certain needless additions in the bill. I totally agree. Those who have added these extraneous, unrelated provisions have jeopardized our security by increasing the chances that the CCP will continue to dominate this space. They are behaving shamelessly. As a former congressman, though, I remember fully well that the final version of any bill was rarely exactly how I wanted it. We can’t let these additions outweigh the importance of the mission of this legislation—to protect our economic and national security through dominance in the semiconductor industry.
The cost of compromise on CHIPS pales in comparison to the costs we will suffer if we allow the Chinese Communist Party to one day own and control access to our critical technologies. We can fix these bad provisions another day; today, we must on-shore this critical technology.
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CHIPS is necessary, but not sufficient. We can no longer allow US corporations to fuel the CCP’s ambitions. CHIPS should be accompanied by a ban on all Chinese-manufactured chips. No US company should be allowed to invest in Chinese chips or use them in their products while continuing to do business with the US government. We should use secondary sanctions to make sure no other nation uses these Chinese chips in their technology as well.
We should prohibit Chinese students and researchers from studying in the USA on advanced topics related to this technology – to train our enemy in American universities is stunningly naïve.
We must recognize the urgency of onshoring domestic semiconductor manufacturing and act accordingly. The cost of failure would be no less than the loss of American economic independence and security.
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