Progressive Views: Commerce Department and the CHIPS Act

By Kevin Henning
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, March 25, 2023

Closeup of transistors on a circuit board
Image by Pixabay is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The United States Commerce Department is a far-reaching multifaceted organization. Commerce has a budget of $15 billion, with 50,000 employees in twelve Bureaus and a number of offices that support worldwide operations. One of Commerce’s main functions is data gathering and analysis by organizations like the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the U.S. Census Bureau. Other well-known parts of Commerce are the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The bi-partisan CHIPS and Science Act is an extremely important piece of legislation that Commerce is coordinating. The organization is led by Gina Raimondo, the 51-year-old former Governor of Rhode Island. She is a dynamic problem solver and skilled manager. Leading twelve different bureaus requires strong organizational and communication skills. Her current focus is to bring semiconductor (chip) manufacturing back to America.

The CHIPS and Science Act establishes a program to re-establish America’s leadership in technology and protect our economic and national security. The CHIPS Act provides the Department of Commerce with $50 billion for a group of programs to revitalize the U.S. position in semiconductor research, development, and manufacturing.

Chips form the foundation of every advanced technology including the smartphone, cloud computing service, new cars, medical devices, and the weapons system our military use.

Chips will be the building blocks for future technology. While the United States leads the world in chip design, we have outsourced much of the manufacturing. In the 1970s and 80s, politicians watched while industry executives moved their operations overseas which allowed our cities and industrial centers to atrophy. Many managers placed short-term profits above American security and the American worker. Communist China has stolen our technology and wants to see our capitalist, free enterprise system destroyed. We must not let that happen. The CHIPS Act is a positive step to reverse this negative trend.

In a recent visit to Austin, Secretary Raimondo remarked: “To revitalize our technology and manufacturing sectors, we need to start with training and inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists. We’re calling on colleges and universities to triple the number of graduates in semiconductor-related fields, including engineering, over the next decade.” She also has said: “Tens of thousands of American workers without 4-year degrees will have access to good paying jobs and careers.” Raimondo closed by saying, ”President Biden has done more than any other president to revitalize American manufacturing and innovation. CHIPS for America is central to those efforts.”

The Commerce Department was established in 1913 by President Taft. The longest-serving Secretary was Herbert Hoover, who later became President of the United States. Commerce’s modern-day mission is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity for all communities. The Department is working to expand U.S. manufacturing not just for semiconductors but in all industries. Also, they are working to build more flexible supply chains in support of domestic industries and workers. Protecting technology and expertise is another high priority along with mitigating climate change.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis is the principal federal statistical producing agency.  BEA provides some of the most closely watched and influential economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the trade balance, that directly affect decisions made by policy makers, business managers, and the public.

The Census Bureau collects information about the nation’s population, economy, society, and institutions. It provides a massive array of data and analysis that can be discovered on its website.

The Patent and Trademark Office exists to foster innovation, competitiveness and economic growth by granting patents and trademarks that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and ingenuity. The ever-expanding world of digital designs and inventions are presenting new challenges to existing protection systems.  USPTO will need to up its game to protect to our modern digital economy.

NOAA is a truly amazing organization which provides daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring. NOAA’s mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.” Its services support more than one-third of America’s economy. A visit to NOAA’s website reveals a collection of photographs and satellite images showing the devastation of our planet caused by climate change.

To learn more about the Commerce Department and its Bureaus, check out its website.

To find out more about how to get involved with the Kendall County Democratic Party, visit or call our office at 830-331-1243.

Kevin Henning is a local Democrat.

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