Swense Tech

Best Solution For You

CHIPS And Science Act Is Now Law. That Doesn’t Mean Policymakers’ Work Is Done.

The legislative graveyard is filled with examples of bills that Congress failed to fully fund.

Years of bipartisan work to invest in U.S. innovation culminated with President Biden’s signature on the CHIPS and Science Act. Yet, the historic bill — now law — marks only the first step on the path toward securing this once-in-a-generation investment with the promise to transform U.S. competitiveness.

If the U.S. wants to win the global innovation race, Congress must now secure the funding it authorized. Unfortunately, the legislative graveyard is filled with examples of similar bills that never quite got there and, in the process, placed the U.S. firmly behind other countries, namely China.

The challenges facing the U.S. in science, research and innovation are greater now than ever before. In the past two decades, China has poured money into research and development, quadrupling its investment in this area. The U.S., meanwhile, has lagged behind: Today, it ranks 10th as a percentage of GDP when it comes to its global share of research and development spending.

That global competitive reality spurred lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to work together to pass the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act in the first place. And yet, as history shows us, that alone won’t secure the generational investments in U.S. science and technology that we so desperately need.

Consider, for starters, the 2007 America COMPETES Act, which called for major research agencies to receive an annual 10.4% funding boost, according to the Congressional Research Service. Yet, Congress only approved a 6.4% annual increase. Then, in following years, Congress slashed that to a rate of just 3.1% each year.

The story is no better when it comes to other portions of the same bill intended to address STEM education and high-priority research areas. A Government Accountability Office review of the 2007 and 2010 America COMPETES bill found only one of the 28 new programs in the measure was actually implemented and funded.

This failure is the result of the difference between an authorized program, or Congress giving itself permission to spend, and an appropriation of that money from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, or the actual spending of tax dollars.

Luckily for the semiconductor industry, the $52 billion in the CHIPS and Science Act to boost domestic manufacturing and production is labeled as emergency spending, meaning that money has been fully secured. However, much of the rest of the bill’s provisions — such as creating new entities at the Department of Commerce or National Institute of Standards and Technology — will need to be appropriated by Congress.

As history shows with the previous America COMPETES bills, that can be the hardest part and what ultimately sets back the U.S. on the global stage. The question for Congress is how much of the rhetoric will actually become reality.

The challenges facing this country — from supply chain issues to the offshoring of new technologies to the rapid rise of global competitors— will not be addressed by a 1,000-page legislative wish list. It must be backed up with every penny of funding Congress promised in the first place.