American Made Advocacy: Congress Must Redefine What’s Critical

Now that the 2022 midterm elections are behind us, we can look forward to the 118th Congress beginning their work on Jan. 3, 2023. The ongoing effort to build secure and resilient supply chains will be front and center on their agenda.

On the heels of everything that has been done to invest in semiconductor reshoring, some might ask why further action is needed.

The CHIPs and Science Act that passed earlier this year was an important first step. But unless we invest in the entire microelectronics ecosystem, it won’t be enough. A complex technology stack including semiconductors, substrates, and printed circuit boards makes almost all modern technologies possible. The entire ecosystem matters, and we can’t simply invest in one layer and expect to achieve the result we’re seeking.

In the case of printed circuit boards, there is a considerable challenge: Over the past two decades, domestic production of printed circuit boards decreased from 26% to 4% of global market share. In that same period, the industry shrunk from nearly 2,500 U.S.-based companies to fewer than 150.

This erosion has real implications for critical systems, but what do we mean by “critical” anyway?

Until now, the definition has been narrowly applied to aerospace and defense technologies. The Pentagon recognized decades ago that modern weapons systems—everything from submarines to night vision goggles—rely on microelectronics and directed U.S. industry to produce those technologies here at home.

Today that strict definition is outdated. Because of the way commercial and defense technologies are intertwined, there is no way to limit critical technologies to military applications. Nations, including the United States, are using economic and industrial policies across multiple industry verticals to influence geopolitical outcomes.

The time has come for policymakers to understand that banking, telecommunications, energy, transportation, and healthcare are also vital to our national security. All these sectors are powered by microelectronics and should be considered critical. This has implications for policies that take a holistic view of all the industry verticals that drive our economic and national security.

What are the common elements our nation needs to make this happen?

We need to invest in a broad and sustainable base of high-tech manufacturing and form public/private partnerships to both train the skilled workforce and invest in areas like microelectronics that are the foundation of every industry vertical in our modern world.

Bringing high-tech manufacturing back to the United States and having a world-class workforce does more than shore up the economy; it makes our nation more secure. Policymakers need to understand that industrial policy is national security policy and expand their thinking to include a broader definition of what constitutes a critical sector.

PCBs are just one example of a foundational microelectronic that makes modern life possible and that’s why they need a secure and reliable domestic supply chain. The Printed Circuit Board Association of America was formed to educate, advocate, and legislate with this outcome in mind.

This column originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.

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2022

American Made Advocacy: Congress Must Redefine What’s Critical

12-02-2022

Regardless of what emerges from the 2022 mid-term elections, we know that on Jan. 3, 2023, the 118th Congress will be seated and begin their work. The ongoing effort to build secure and resilient supply chains will be front and center on their agenda. On the heels of everything that has been done to invest in semiconductor reshoring, some might ask why further action is needed.

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American Made Advocacy: The CHIPS Act is Just the Beginning

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Now that the much-heralded CHIPS and Science Act has been signed into law, the work to secure the entire microelectronics ecosystem must begin. We have a long way to go in restoring balance and resilience in our critical supply chains. Over the past 20 years we have let the manufacturing and the know-how that goes with it migrate overseas. U.S. dependance on foreign suppliers won’t be reversed overnight, even by building semiconductor fabrication plants here.

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American Made Advocacy: DoD Unarmed Without the PCB

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It’s been more than 800 days since the global COVID-19 pandemic upended the supply chains of almost every industry. Whether it’s a shortage of commercial and consumer electronics or automobiles, businesses and their customers are bearing the brunt of what decades of offshoring and billions in foreign manufacturing subsidies have caused. One sector that sometimes escapes the attention of everyday Americans is aerospace and defense, where high-tech platforms and equipment are essential to mission success.

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American Made Advocacy: What Happens in Washington Happens to Us All

03-22-2022

Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few years grappling with the challenges posed by a global pandemic. Whether it’s staffing a production line or obtaining key materials, PCB manufacturers and their suppliers have had to adapt quickly to a radically changed environment. We’re more than 700 days into this new world, but as an industry, we cannot allow our day-to-day focus on operations to distract us from what is happening in Washington and what it means to the microelectronics ecosystem.

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American Made Advocacy: A Voice in Washington for American-Made PCBs

01-24-2022

I-Connect007 welcomes new columnist Travis Kelly, president of Isola Group and now chairman of the newly formed Printed Circuit Board Association of America (PCBAA). This organization was formed to address to the U.S. Congress the critical supply chain issues facing the printed circuit board and semiconductor industries. It has three major objectives: To support domestic production of PCBs, enhance domestic supply chain security, and advocate for initiatives that create fair market conditions. Kelly is currently leading PCBAA, comprised of several domestic PCB fabricators with a vested interest in lobbying Congress on these important issues.

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