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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Warning bells are sounding for the U.S. semiconductor industry as Intel grapples with internal and competitive challenges that could imperil the future of domestic chipmaking.

Why it matters: Chips are some of the only strategic tech products that are actually manufactured in the U.S., accounting for a quarter-million U.S. jobs. They're also a small but key piece in the power struggle between the U.S. and China.

Driving the news: Intel is weighing whether to outsource some manufacturing after struggling mightily to get its next-generation chip production up and running.

  • Costly delays are already handing a technical edge to rivals like AMD, which outsources its manufacturing to Taiwan's TSMC.
  • The percentage of chips made in the U.S. has already declined from 37% in 1990 to 12% today, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the trade group that represents U.S. chipmakers.

Policymakers and chip industry reps are now pleading for government intervention to keep what remains of U.S. chip manufacturing in the country.

The big picture: Beijing has grand designs on dominating the global chip market, which would in turn boost China's economic and technological might and could give the country an edge in A.I. and other next-generation technologies.

  • China's efforts have run into troubles of their own, but Intel falling behind will do the U.S. no favors.

Between the lines: For all the talk of how computers and smartphones should be made in the U.S., the practical reality is that we have neither the infrastructure nor the labor force nor the economic setup to bring such manufacturing here.

  • Chips, on the other hand, are highly strategic, require a modest but well-paid labor force and are already made here.

What they're saying: Both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked about the strategic importance of the U.S. chip industry in their confirmation hearings.

  • SIA head John Neuffer said in a statement to Axios, "Semiconductors are critical to our economy, national security, and future innovation."
  • "To strengthen America’s semiconductor supply chains and keep our country on top in chip technology, leaders in Washington need to fully fund the semiconductor manufacturing incentives and research investments called for in the annual defense bill."

That bill — the most recent incarnation of the National Defense Authorization Act — has a provision that provides for federal incentives for domestic manufacturing and investments in semiconductor research.

  • However, those provisions still need to be funded through congressional appropriations.

Be smart: The right government investment and incentives could encourage other firms to expand U.S. chipmaking and prevent an exodus of chip jobs even if Intel does reduce the amount of manufacturing it does in-house.

What's next: Pat Gelsinger, recently tapped to be Intel's new CEO, acknowledged on an earnings call last week that "it's likely that we will expand our use of external foundries for certain technologies and products."

  • But he maintained that he remains "confident that the majority of our 2023 products will be manufactured internally."

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: Unvaccinated kids must wear masks in school this fall — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level amid surge in cases — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
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Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.

4 hours ago - World

Schumer: "I want to see a ceasefire"

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday he wants to "see a ceasefire reach quickly and mourn the loss of life."

Why it matters: Schumer is a staunch defender of Israel and has maintained that Israel should be able to defend itself.