America’s supply chain vulnerabilities pose both national and economic security issues, exacerbated by COVID-19. In response, we as a country, we must step up and tackle this challenge with states as key partners in order to be successful, specifically when it comes to overcoming the global semiconductor shortage.
This one single shortage is wreaking holy havoc all around us, causing severe disruptions to our nation’s supply chain, negatively impacting manufacturers, and provoking plant shutdowns that threaten the very stability an American ecosystem already jolted by the pandemic.
The growing backlog of these tiny all-powerful chips — essential to thousands of consumer, industrial and national defense products — is depressing output, driving prices up, and limiting the ability of hardworking Americans to readily access reliable transportation, phone connectivity, household appliances, and remote work opportunities.
The U.S. must quit talking about the problem and start developing significant new capacity here at home. That much, I think we all can agree on, but we need to have much more of a sense of urgency about what’s further at stake.
Overall success depends on bold and decisive action, now. And this is not a scenario where we can rhetorically shift the responsibility solely onto the private sector, nor should we jeopardize our government’s fiscal position to justify a means to an end. Instead, just as we secured public-private partnerships to build aircraft carriers and fighter planes during World War II, we must again.
I applaud the U.S. Senate’s recent acknowledgment to address this economic vulnerability by including $52 billion to support the CHIPS for America Act as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S.1260). As governor, I’ve been clear that Indiana will fully leverage our state’s resources and workforce to patriotically create the solutions needed for this day, but we need Congress as a whole to take the critical first step.
Members of Congress can confidently take that first step knowing a state like Indiana, the most advanced manufacturing-intensive state in the country, boasts the production capacity, world-class research universities, industry innovators, talent pipelines, and defense assets necessary to win this 21st Century technology race.
Because as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes, our nation is operating in a zero-trust environment when it comes to our microelectronics supply chain. We need to be capable of designing, producing, packaging, authenticating, and verifying semiconductors here at home. Fortunately, Indiana’s Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane has long been a vital national security asset and serves to this day as a strategic partner in the mission of assuring trusted microelectronics, particularly those that we rely on for our national defense and critical infrastructure.
Simultaneously, we need to invest in growing our U.S-based semiconductor workforce itself. Forty percent of the industry’s talent is foreign-born, and, despite the field’s growth, the number of specialized U.S.-born graduate students has been stagnant for 30 years. Purdue University is leading a Department of Defense initiative (SCALE) that includes the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, and another dozen leading universities from around the nation to develop talent through research, internships and work experience.
Advanced manufacturing is the bedrock of the Indiana economy. We develop, innovate, and make solutions that power the world around us. Our manufacturers, and our economy, rely on those semiconductors to keep production in motion and to uphold our reputation of delivering innovative products to industry and consumers across the globe that need them to meet their demand.
Indiana is ready to compete, collaborate and lead in addressing this national need. We just need Congress to enact legislation as soon as possible, send it to the president’s desk, and states like Indiana will make you proud.
Holcomb is governor of the state of Indiana.