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Such major Pennsylvania employers as Lockheed Martin, and research hubs such as Carnegie Mellon University, would be hobbled if congressional negotiators don’t swiftly come to agreement on legislation aimed at improving American competitiveness in the global semiconductor market, seni0r Biden administration officials warned Tuesday.
“We can’t wait. Other countries aren’t waiting,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said during a press call with Pennsylvania journalists. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to get this done. It’s just too important for economic and national security.”
The Bipartisan Innovation Act, sponsored by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., provides $52 billion in funding to boost domestic semiconductor production. The bill also would authorize the creation of the nation’s first Supply Chain Resilience Office, headquartered within the Commerce Department, which would address the kinds of supply chain issued laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House and Senate each have passed their own versions of the bill, and differences between the two chambers must be reconciled in conference committee before a final bill can be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk. Last week, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, announced she’d appointed the House’s conferees. Congress is currently out of session.
On Tuesday, Raimondo, joined by Tarun Chhabra, a senior member of the National Security Council, stressed the United States’ current strategic and disadvantage in the global semiconductor market, key pieces of technology that power everything from cars to precision guided missile systems.
In 1990, the U.S. produced 40% of all semiconductor chips worldwide, according to a report by NextGov. By 2022, that share had dropped to 12 percent, with China and other nations stepping into the gap. Congressional authorization of the bill, and a signature from Biden, would prevent that.
“Chips are at the forefront of ours’ and our allies’ response to Russia’s war in Ukraine,” Raimondo said, referring to America’s sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. ” … We already seeing an effect on Putin’s ability to cary out the war. Russia is running low on precision-guided munitions, and Russian car-makers have shut down production. It shows national security risk to the United States because we are so overly reliant on foreign manufacturers.”
Closer to home, congressional approval of the bill would have a knock-on effect for Pennsylvania by spurring economic development in the Keystone State. Penn State University, which has a cooperative program with other Pennsylvania colleges and community colleges to train students to work with chips, would likely be a beneficiary of the research and development funding included in the bill, Chhabra said.
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