US President Biden spoke about the problems the United States had in supplying missiles for Javelin anti-tank systems to Ukraine due to the shortage of computer chips needed to manufacture them.
At the end of October, EurAsian Times detailed how the Russian defense industry could not produce precision-guided munitions in adequate quantities due to Western sanctions that cut off its access to semi-automatic chips. drivers made in the West.
However, the West seems to be cut off from its semiconductor technology due to its limited production capacity.
President Biden addressed the issues facing the US defense industry during his Nov. 4 speech in San Diego, Calif., on the need to revamp US semiconductor production.
“America invented the computer chip and led the industry for decades. Then something happened,” Biden said. “American companies went overseas for less labor. expensive; American-made hollowed out.
He further explained how the United States could not afford to rely on foreign supply chains due to the risks posed by pandemics or “political decisions made in China, Taiwan or elsewhere”.
He added that such reliance was already evidenced by US efforts to arm Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.
“Earlier this year, I was at the Lockheed Martin factory in Alabama, where they make Javelin missiles. Guess what? We had problems sending Javelin missiles to Ukraine because they didn’t have chips They didn’t have computer chips,” Biden said.
“There are 250 or more tokens in each Javelin [missile] launch system,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said during a Senate hearing in April.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for a budget hearing, Raimondo called the chip shortage a national emergency.
“I recently spoke to all the national defense contractors, who are working overtime on the Ukraine resupply issue, and their biggest issues,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo noted that the average semiconductor-consuming industry had less than five days of inventory, even as chipmakers were operating at maximum capacity.
Biden administration introduces measures to revamp domestic chip manufacturing
According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the global share of chips made in the United States has fallen to just 1% today, from 37% in 1990.
To address the chip shortage problem, the US Congress passed the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) Act in July 2022, signed into law by President Biden on August 9.
The CHIPS Act specifically allocates $52.7 billion in additional grants and tax credits to expand domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
However, manufacturing could take at least five years to start for manufacturing facilities subsidized under the Biden administration’s CHIPS Act.
“It will even take three to five years to build them — in some cases even longer,” said Democratic Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, while stressing the need for grants to help shore up United States. ‘ production capacities.
“If we hadn’t made this legislation, if it wasn’t the law of the land, the one thing I could say unequivocally: none of these facilities would be in America because it’s cheaper to build in Asia,” added Warner.
Experts estimate that tens of thousands of new skilled engineers will be needed for the US semiconductor industry to catch up with Asia.
“The estimate is around 80,000 new engineers in five years. That’s a lot of people in a short time,” Warner noted.
In addition to the $52 billion in subsidies under the CHIPS Act, the Biden administration has imposed a series of export controls to cut off China‘s access to American technologies.
On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued rules requiring licenses to export chipmaking technology to 28 listed Chinese entities to target China’s ability “to to obtain advanced computer chips, to develop and maintain supercomputers and to manufacture advanced semiconductors”.
The measures also extend restrictions on chipmaking tools even for industries that support the semiconductor supply chain, cutting off access to American talent and the components that make up the tools needed to make chips. .
These export control measures mark the most significant step taken by the US government to date in its quest to undermine Chinese technological capabilities.