Can members of Congress help solve the semiconductor problem in the United States?

Vehicles are assembled and tested April 14, 2021, at the Rivian plant in Normal, Ill. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service

This editorial appeared in The Dallas Morning News on May 3:

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — America faces a serious economic and national security risk when it comes to the development and manufacturing of semiconductor chips that are integral to daily life in the modern world.

A strong bipartisan majority of Congress understands this and has rightly acted to boost the semiconductor industry domestically. But the job isn’t done, and we are writing to urge Congress to make sure it does get done.

In most circumstances, we are skeptical of government directly subsidizing industry with cash infusions. In this case, it is essential to the nation’s future and to global security for democracies.

And Texas is at the center of the solution to this problem, with a history of development and production of semiconductor chips that also has a great future, with substantial private investment throughout the state.

The problem here isn’t support for the act. The problem instead is getting the funds appropriated strategically and with adequate speed to make a difference in the supply chain. It’s important that Congress sends a message that it is capable of putting up the money to support a vital American interest.

The economic problem is easy enough to understand. Anyone who has tried to purchase a car lately has encountered the high price of disruptions to the semiconductor supply chain.

The national security problem is perhaps less obvious. Semiconductor manufacturing is largely based in Taiwan and South Korea, which are under persistent threat. We need to protect and support our democratic allies. But we also need to ensure we have the capability to produce this vital product at home.

There is reason for optimism. U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, told Roll Call last week that she is optimistic that a conference committee is making progress on CHIPS Act negotiations.

It’s important that those negotiations don’t derail the original intent of the act — to get money flowing for research, development and manufacture of semiconductors on U.S. soil. The bill is popular, so it isn’t surprising that plenty of side projects have been attached to it.

The act’s passage led to substantial industry commitment to boosting semiconductor production and research. Intel announced a $20 billion project in Ohio. Samsung announced a $17 billion factory northeast of Austin. Texas Instruments is investing up to $30 billion in our state, according to a White House fact sheet.

That means jobs now and in coming years for Americans. In the long run, it means a more stable and secure economy with American goods running on American chips.

Congress gets a lot wrong. So far, it has gotten this right. But the time to deliver is now.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2022 The Dallas Morning News.

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