Tech and auto execs tackle global chip shortage at White House summit

A collection of tech and auto industry executives met with the White House to discuss solutions for the worldwide chip shortage Monday.

CEOs from Google, Intel, HP, Dell, Ford and General Motors attended the virtual summit on semiconductors and resilience in supply chains. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese hosted the meeting, which President Biden also attended briefly.

Ahead of the summit, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said he hoped the U.S. could increase its semiconductor production to encompass a third of all chips sold in the U.S. Intel is in discussions to make chips designed specifically for automakers within its own facilities, a project that could take some pressure off of supply lines.

An ongoing dearth of the tiny, high-tech components used in everything from car entertainment systems to smartphones has stretched supply thin. Consumers have been feeling it for months. Soaring demand has made new gaming consoles and graphics cards scarce, even months after some of those devices are released. But with semiconductors omnipresent in devices these days, the supply shortages are disrupting industries well beyond gaming.

President Biden signed an executive order taking aim at the supply issues in February. That order initiated a 100-day review of supply chains for semiconductors as well as advanced batteries like those found in electric vehicles, key minerals required for tech products, and pharmaceuticals and their ingredients.

Biden noted that the chip shortages have “caused delays in productions of automobiles and has resulted in reduced hours for American workers.” He also cited supply shortages for PPE during the early months of the pandemic, when many health workers were forced to work without proper protection.

The order also kicks off a longer review in cooperation with industry leaders that will look for solutions that can be implemented right away to alleviate ongoing supply chain issues.

Supply chain issues for tech components also highlight tensions with China, a fact that Sullivan’s presence at the White House summit makes clear. Biden cited concerns around “long-term competitiveness” as one motivation for undergoing a major audit of supply chains for critical tech components.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has called the shortage “a national security issue as well as an economic one,” citing the need for semiconductors in defense tech.

Warner has emphasized the need for legislative solutions that would move the U.S. toward self-reliance and push back on China’s influence, pointing to a semiconductor production bill he introduced with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) last summer.

Biden previously said that the administration will work toward solutions to the current shortfall of the critical chips and will be leaning on political allies “to ramp up production to help us resolve the bottlenecks we face now.”

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