Lead Republican McCaul: Semiconductors are the future. Building them should stay in Texas.

By: House Foreign Affairs Lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX)

The Austin American-Statesman

August 7, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many Americans to the danger the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to our supply chain, especially for critical items such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and lifesaving pharmaceuticals. When COVID was allowed to spread rapidly throughout China and the world, Chinese Communist Party officials hoarded supplies of PPE and banned their export to other countries – a move they were able to make because of their stranglehold on that supply chain.

And just as frightening, the United States sources approximately 80 percent of its active pharmaceutical ingredients from overseas, including the People’s Republic of China. Through one of its propaganda outlets, the CCP even threatened to impose export controls on pharmaceuticals needed to fight the coronavirus the party allowed to spread. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had followed through?

That’s why it’s important that we secure critical medical supply chains now. We also need to secure our technological supply chains before it is too late – and that starts with re-establishing the United States as a true leader in the production of advanced semiconductors.

Semiconductors are the tiny chips that serve as the brains behind your toaster, your smartphone, all the way to fighter jets and, in the very near future, they will serve as the brains behind the innovations of tomorrow such as 5G, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence (AI). America is already a leader on semiconductors, with the U.S. industry accounting for nearly 50 percent annual global market share and with American companies at the forefront of advanced semiconductor chip design. But our leadership is being threatened.

The Chinese Communist Party is spending billions of dollars to become the leader in the production of advanced semiconductors, posing a serious threat to our economic and national security. Unless we take bold action, the United States may lose its edge in making advanced semiconductor chips to our adversary and endanger our technological future.

That’s why I worked with Democrats and Republicans in both Chambers of Congress, including my House colleague Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), and my Senate colleagues Senator John Cornyn and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), to introduce the CHIPS for America Act. By providing funding and support throughout the semiconductor supply chain—from research and development to production—our bill will supercharge investment, create thousands of jobs, and safeguard national security. I am proud a version of the CHIPS for America Act passed on the House floor as an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, and will work with my colleagues in the Senate to get this to the president’s desk.

Existing semiconductor ecosystems like ones in Austin should be further energized by this bill, which will have a cascading effect on the local economy. And with the Army’s Future Command, the University of Texas and the high-tech community already based in Austin, our city is ideally situated for this industry to grow and thrive here. Semiconductor manufacturing jobs—which net an average salary of $150,000 per year—create nearly five additional jobs in the broader economy. We have already seen this effect in Austin thanks to the Samsung Semiconductor facility – the most significant foreign direct investment in this country. Beyond this fabrication facility, there are dozens of semiconductor companies that conduct research, design, or testing of semiconductors in my district, and dozens more that use a semiconductor to power a finished product, such as Apple, which builds its MacBook Pro computer in Austin.

Now is the time to act to preserve American leadership in the development and manufacturing of the technologies of the future.

This op-ed first appeared online in the Austin American-Statesman on August 7th, 2020.