Biden Admin Pressures Congress To Address Semiconductor Shortage Before Chip Crisis Worsens

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If you're reading HotHardware, chances are we don't need to tell you about the ongoing chip shortage. Vendors worldwide have been struggling under an extreme shortage of etched silicon to power their products, and it's not just the tech industry that's feeling the crunch. Almost every industry has suffered, from automotive, to heavy industry, and even agriculture.

The most-developed countries are seeing the largest disruptions from this shortage, and naturally, that includes the United States. Unfortunately, there's not actually a lot that the US can do to deal with the semiconductor shortage in the immediate term, because relatively few chips are presently made in the US. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, US semiconductor production is just 12% of the market.

That's not to say that the US government isn't trying to do anything. Back in June of last year, two US senators—Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX)—pushed legislation cutely named the "Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act," better known as the CHIPS for America Act. The bill has already passed the Senate, but is languishing in the House of Representatives for now.

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Design concept for TI's new fab in Sherman, Texas.

Put simply, CHIPS for America is a fairly-standard subsidy program to encourage development of leading-edge fabrication plants in the United States. The act, which would cost the government $52 billion if funded, would have numerous effects, including a 40% income tax credit for "qualified semiconductor manufacturing facility investments" through 2024. It also allocates $10 billion to create a federal program that will match state and local incentives for foundry construction.

President Biden's cabinet, particularly Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, is aggressively pushing the CHIPS for America Act. Speaking to CNN, Raimondo said "We are imploring Congress to pass the CHIPS Act. It has to happen by Christmas." Continuing, she stated, "This is a crisis now, and it's only going to get worse." It's a little difficult to disagree with Raimondo; the chip shortage really is a crisis, and it's responsible for pervasive supply chain disruptions the world over.

Still, the value of the CHIPS Act at this point is questionable. Foundries don't appear overnight, and even if this bill were passed into law tomorrow, it wouldn't do much to solve the current chip shortage. As analyst George Calhoun writes, both domestic and foreign companies have already announced some $80 billion in near-term plans for foundry expansion in the United States. That includes Intel and TSMC in Arizona, as well as Texas Instruments and Samsung in Texas.

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Samsung's foundry in Taylor, Texas.

Furthermore, we are likely entering the back end of the chip shortage, anyway. Raimondo herself stated that the worst effects of the chip shortage will dissipate in the second half of next year. Likewise, the CEO of HP Enterprise Antonio Neri was quoted by CNBC yesterday as saying that he thinks the chip shortage will abate during or shortly after next summer. In that, he agrees with earlier statements made by AMD's CEO Dr. Lisa Su, although not everyone feels that way. In particular, NVIDIA's Jensen Huang expects supply to be constrained for "the vast majority of next year."

Even if CHIPS isn't necessary, as a patriot, it's a little hard to argue against anything that spurs further domestic semiconductor fabrication development. Taiwan's TSMC still leads the world in bleeding-edge semiconductor fabrication, and all four of the largest US semiconductor firms—Intel, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and AMD—rely on TSMC. That's a dangerous situation for the US (and the rest of the world) given China's repeatedly-stated intention to invade the island.

Do you support the CHIPS Act or not? Let us know what you think in the comments.