Speaking on Friday at the groundbreaking of Intel’s new semiconductor factory in Licking County, Ohio, President Joe Biden said that “it’s time to bury the label ‘rust belt…’” when describing the region in which he stood.
The ‘rust belt’ is a term often used to denote an area extending from western New York through the midwest that saw heavy industrial activity from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, particularly concerning steel production and automobile manufacturing. The region suffered significant economic decline by the late 20th century and many communities therein have struggled since.
When you think about national security, you probably don’t immediately think about semiconductors. These tiny chips are the “brains” enabling all the computational capabilities and data storage that we take for granted today. Chips power virtually every sector of the economy – including data centers, automotive, healthcare, banking, and agriculture. As a consequence of their widespread use, semiconductors have grown to become a $555 billion global industry, and are the world’s fourth most traded product. Semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging have been cited frequently as one of the main critical supply chain priorities for the nation.
A steady source of uninterrupted, trusted chips is necessary for the security of the nation – supporting the readiness of the U.S. military and protecting critical infrastructure like the electric grid. The problem is that most chips are fabricated outside of the U.S., in the vulnerable region of Southeast Asia – hence the security issues. Around three quarters of global chip production capacity comes from Southeast Asia.