The American Foundries Act (S. 4130) of 2020 is an important bill that would fund American innovation in microelectronics manufacturing and advanced R&D facilities across the country. While its prospects are poor in 2020, IEEE-USA expects the bill to get a better hearing in 2021.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton (AR), the cosponsors include Sens. Schumer (NY), Reed (RI), Risch (ID), Collins (ME), King (ME), Hawley (MO), Jones (AL), Gillibrand (NY), Rubio (FL), and Hassan (NH) — giving the bill bipartisan support from a solid number of states. S. 4130 was referred to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee earlier this year.
Under the American Foundries Act, the Secretary of Commerce is able to give grants to states to support manufacturing and advanced research on microelectronics. One of the bill’s goals is to modernize companies’ approach to manufacturing and research. An individual state can receive up to $3 billion, with up to $15 billion available nationally. A biennial report to the U.S. Congress is designed to keep legislators updated on the complex work and analysis being conducted in microelectronics under each grant.
In addition, the American Foundries Act authorizes the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence to work jointly with private companies that produce microelectronics to be used for national security measures. This technology and knowledge is necessary for the intelligence community and Department of Defense, but often hard for the government to access. S. 4130 should improve the situation.
According to Senator Schumer (NY), one of the bill’s cosponsors: “America must continue to invest in our domestic semiconductor industry, including companies like GlobalFoundries, ON Semiconductor, IBM and Cree right here in New York, in order to keep good-paying, high-tech American manufacturing jobs here at home. We need to ensure our domestic microelectronics industry can safely and securely supply our military, intelligence agencies, and other government needs. This is essential to our national security and to U.S. leadership in this critical industry.”
Likewise, the bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Cotton (AR) stated: “The United States revolutionized the microelectronics industry, which is essential to our safety and security today. But by ceding semiconductor manufacturing and development to countries like China, the United States has fallen behind and given the Chinese Communist Party dangerous leverage over our nation’s future. Our bill invests in the microelectronics industry here in America, where it belongs.”
S. 4130 helps IEEE members in the United States by funding further research and funding development facilities working on microelectronics manufacturing for years to come. The American Foundries Act funds critical research to help technology companies innovate in a rapidly changing global market, which in turn should make the American economy — and American workers — more globally competitive.
The 116th Congress will end when Congress adjourns in mid-December. There are roughly four weeks of legislative time between the Election and adjournment, which is probably not enough time for this bill to pass. However, the American Foundries Act has received solid support from legislators across Congress, with little opposition. When paired with the CHIPS Act, a similar bill focused on semiconductors, we can see strong support for legislation to invest in American technology manufacturing.
Promoting manufacturing legislation will be one of IEEE-USA’s top priorities when the 117th Congress begins on 4 January 2021.
Kayla Henneberry is policy associate for IEEE-USA government relations.