The Washington Post
Last Tuesday, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, which will provide $52 billion in subsidies for the U.S. semiconductor industry. Part of that funding is expected to go toward constructing new domestic semiconductor manufacturing facilities and training employees to staff them. Research Analyst Will Hunt, who has written extensively on the subject, told The Washington Post that more than 30,000 high-tech workers could be needed if all the planned manufacturing projects come to fruition.
The New York Times
As Congress considered the CHIPS and Science Act, The New York Times also took notice of Hunt’s work. According to his analysis, an anticipated eight new domestic semiconductor fabrication plants would require about 13,000 new engineers and software developers, and the supply of U.S.-born talent in this area falls short of demand. Hunt estimated that at least 3,500 foreign-born workers will be needed to help staff the new American fabs. Some could come from American universities, but many would need to be recruited from Taiwan and South Korea.
Defense One reached out to Hunt and Research Analyst Ryan Fedasiuk to learn what challenges the United States must overcome beyond those addressed in the CHIPS and Science Act. “Reshoring semiconductor manufacturing is the top concern in the U.S.-China technology relationship, and it’s not close,” said Fedasiuk. According research that Fedasiuk spearheaded, China is able to mass produce and mass acquire key processors for its military, including chips that are designed by U.S. companies but manufactured overseas. “Without necessary tools to screen outbound technology investments,” he said, “there is a risk that American investors will keep inadvertently boosting China’s own chipmaking industry.” For Hunt, “the next step is for the Department of Commerce to ensure that the funds target the most important types of chips. … It’s essential that manufacturing incentives—which comprise the bulk of the funding in the bill—prioritize leading edge capacity.” He added, “further steps include ensuring that fab permitting processes will progress quickly; building up the U.S. semiconductor workforce and reducing barriers to high-skilled immigration; and partnering with allies on export controls to ensure that we protect the fruits of CHIPS from China’s technology transfer efforts.”
The Wire China
The Wire China also cited Hunt’s research on the semiconductor workforce and overseas talent in a story about the CHIPS and Science Act, noting a key provision that would have made it easier for foreign-born STEM workers to immigrate to the United States was eliminated in the final revision of the bill. According to Hunt’s analysis, just a quarter of all holders of U.S. master’s degrees in computer science and electrical engineering were born in the United States, and higher-skilled semiconductor manufacturing jobs frequently require graduate training.
The Chinese genome sequencing company BGI Group is set to release its CoolMPS sequencer, making it more competitive against the U.S.-based current market leader, Illumina, The Wire China reported. BGI currently faces controversy for its collaboration with the People’s Liberation Army, and two of its subsidiaries were added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List, barring them from U.S. exports. “If it’s on the Entity List, it probably shouldn’t have that market access,” said Senior Fellow and Director of Biotechnology Programs Anna Puglisi. Furthermore, bringing Chinese companies like BGI into the supply chain raises concerns for the future of genome sequencing. “It’s a technical infrastructure issue that was seen with Covid,” Puglisi said. “We don’t want an entire section of our R&D activities dependent on a Chinese company.”
Extensive U.S. counterintelligence investigations involving China have yielded some surprising results, including the recent finding by the FBI that equipment by Chinese company Huawei could disrupt U.S. nuclear weapons, CNN reported. But the government’s refusal to disclose what’s behind some investigations has prompted observers “to accuse it of chasing ghosts.” As Puglisi noted, it’s a complicated situation: “It really comes down to: do you treat China as a neutral actor — because if you treat China as a neutral actor, then yeah, this seems crazy, that there’s some plot behind every tree. However, China has shown us through its policies and actions it is not a neutral actor.”
Politico’s Morning Cybersecurity newsletter took note of Senior Fellow Andrew Lohn and Visiting Junior Fellow Krystal Jackson’s latest report, Will AI Make Cyber Swords or Shields? They found that AI technologies can discover cybersecurity vulnerabilities more quickly than human researchers, and sharing cyber threat information widely will help in catching malicious email campaigns. “Though none of these conclusions are certain, debates over these harms and benefits need to look faster and farther to give cyber defense and policymakers time to set a course and weigh trade-offs,” according to Lohn and Jackson.
Council on Foreign Relations
In an opinion piece for the Council on Foreign Relations, Research Fellow Diana Gehlhaus explained why states need an AI education agenda. “In a world characterized by widespread AI adoption, everyone will need a basic AI education to compete and succeed. Yet states have largely avoided making AI education a priority, putting U.S. leadership in this vital field at risk,” she wrote. States need to prioritize AI education starting as early as elementary and middle school and request federal resources to supplement their AI education offerings. Gehlhaus was the lead author on CSET research recommending grants for K-12 AI education and teacher professional development, as well as research proposing that federal funds be used to help create AI education and training materials.
In an opinion piece for Scientific American, Dakota Cary advocated that the Biden administration classify civilian satellites as critical infrastructure to reduce their susceptibility to attacks. “Calling civilian satellites critical infrastructure communicates to other countries that these objects would be exempt from the standard espionage operations, the hacking, and in some cases, the attacks that other countries conduct against the U.S. as part of normal foreign affairs,” Cary wrote. “It is imperative that civilian satellites not become casualties of war and conflict. … Their critical functions in daily life are too great to be ignored. A designation of their status as critical infrastructure would demonstrate to other countries that the U.S. will not tolerate attacks that disrupt or degrade their function.”
Spotlight on CSET Experts: Will Hunt
Will Hunt is a Research Analyst focused on semiconductor workforce and supply chain issues.
His latest publications include Sustaining and Growing the U.S. Semiconductor Advantage: A Primer, Preserving the Chokepoints, and Reshoring Chipmaking Requires High-Skilled Foreign Talent. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, The Wire China, and Wired. Will has also testified on semiconductor policy before the STAR Subcommittee of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Interested in speaking with Will or our other experts? Contact External Affairs Specialist Adrienne Thompson at email@example.com.