US Bill Would Create White House ‘Chief Manufacturing Officer’

The US Senate has reportedly drafted a compromise bill that would fund $95 billion (£67bn) for research into cutting-edge high-tech areas, as well as creating a White House “chief manufacturing officer” to help prioritise the country’s manufacturing base.

The 131-page bill is in part intended to counter rising competition from China and follows disruption to US manufacturing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and worldwide microprocessor shortages.

The “Endless Frontier” bill, worth $110bn overall, has bipartisan backing, having been drafted by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and Roger Wicker, the committee’s ranking Republican.

An Intel chip manufacturing plant. Image credit: Intel

Research

Most of the funds, $95bn, would be authorised over five years to invest in basic and advanced research and commercialisation in areas such as artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology and advanced energy, Reuters reported.

Another $10bn would go toward designating at least 10 regional technology hubs and creating a supply chain crisis-response programme to address issues such as the chip shortage, which has led to a slowdown in auto production.

In its current form, the bill would also create a Senate-confirmed chief manufacturing officer reporting directly to the president.

The officer would head a new Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy, a manufacturing equivalent to the country’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Supply chain resiliency

The bill would direct the Commerce Department to establish a supply chain resiliency and crisis-response programme, including “the ability of supply chains to resist and recover in the face of shocks, including pandemic and biological threats, cyberattacks, extreme weather events, terrorist and geopolitical attacks, great power conflict, and other threats”.

The bill also looks to boost basic research toward innovation in critical minerals mining strategies, and technologies to eliminate “national reliance on minerals and mineral materials that are subject to supply disruptions”.

The draft would block Chinese companies from participating in the Manufacturing USA programme without a waiver.

‘Bold initiative’

The programme, also known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), is a network of research institutes focused on developing manufacturing technologies through public-private partnerships.

In introducing the bill last month, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Senate floor it was “a big, bold, bipartisan initiative” to move the US “into the 21st century”.

The bill has been applauded by tech industry groups such as BSA, which includes Microsoft, Intel and IBM as members.

“The Endless Frontier Act takes a forward-looking approach to help ensure the US remains the global hub for innovation,” the BSA said when the bill was introduced in April.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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