The concentration of fabrication facilities in East Asia creates supply chain risks. Trade disputes, military conflicts, or other disruptions in the region could significantly affect U.S. access to semiconductors.
In 1990, China had no chip manufacturing capabilities. Today, their government is excessively subsidizing semiconductor production, putting them on track to be the global leader in chip manufacturing by 2030. This trend makes increasing U.S. production of semiconductors critical to our own national security.
In March 2021, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence found:
After decades leading the microelectronics industry, the United States will soon source roughly 90 percent of all high-volume, leading-edge integrated-circuit production from countries in East Asia.
This means the United States is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources for production of the cutting-edge semiconductors critical for defense systems and industry more broadly, leaving the U.S. supply chain vulnerable to disruption by foreign government action or natural disaster. (Source: NSCAI.gov)
Fortunately, Senator John Cornyn and others in the Senate are working, with bipartisan support, on the CHIPS for America Act, which will boost domestic manufacturing and lower the risk of supply chain interruption or corruption. Proactively, the American Foundries Act will provide grants and economic development incentives for research and development. The fortification to be gained from these bills led to their inclusion in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
Why it Matters
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell says, “National security is the number one reason to support this project. Semiconductors are the brain of every electrical device; from your thermostat to your pacemaker to our stealth bombers. We should not have to depend on countries we don’t trust to produce things we use to protect ourselves. Further, when the next pandemic or ice storm occurs, I want the things we depend on for survival to be made in the USA—I want the most advanced semiconductors in the world to be made in our backyard.”
The Judge frequently asks others to consider the scene at empty car dealerships as an example of the means by which China may be able to control our economy. Providing fewer chips will prevent manufacturers from completing production on many products Americans take for granted, which will handicap our GDP and widen the nation’s global trade gaps.
“Consider how reliant we are on technology and the Internet,” the Judge says. “Our business environment, health care, communication, and education are critically dependent on devices. Samsung is from South Korea—a friendly nation—and we must consider the electronic brains in our cell phones also go into our tanks and planes. Those we purchase from China may be made to be hackable. Perhaps they will be programmed with malware and designed to fail at critical times, leaving our businesses dark, unplugged, and forcing us to send ever-increasing revenues overseas.”
Given all factors, it is significant that the partners in the Samsung agreement are not just in Taylor. Judge Gravell adds, “This isn’t fighting to bring a new car or furniture manufacturer to America. This goes all the way to the White House and is being aggressively pursued by both parties. In Williamson County, we are twice fortunate—prosperous and protected—that Samsung will be here.”