Cummins among companies at White House chips-shortage summit

President Joe Biden’s top economic and national security advisers are hosting more than a dozen CEOs on Monday to discuss the administration’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan and the global semiconductor shortage, according to a White House official.

Companies invited to join the administration officials include General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, Google parent Alphabet Inc., Dell Technologies, Intel Corp., Medtronic, Northrop Grumman, HP Inc., Cummins Inc., Micron Technology, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., AT&T and Samsung Electronics.

National Economic Council director Brian Deese and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will host the meeting, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will also participate.

Indiana-based engine maker Cummins hasn’t publicly complained about semiconductor availability but has said supply chain issues in general are an ongoing problem.

“The supply base is generally tight, not just semiconductors, which has gotten a lot of press,” Cummins President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Satterthwaite said on the company’s earnings call in February. “Many of our components are on longer lead times. Our suppliers and we are struggling with absenteeism due to COVID. We are working very closely with our customers to remain connected and to continue to supply them as best we can.”

The chip shortage has already been rippling through various markets since last summer. It has made it difficult for schools to buy enough laptops for students forced to learn from home, delayed the release of popular products such as the iPhone 12 and created mad scrambles to find the latest video game consoles such as the PlayStation 5.

But things have been getting even worse in recent weeks, particularly in the auto industry, where factories are shutting down because there aren’t enough chips to finish building vehicles that are starting to look like computers on wheels. The problem was recently compounded by a grounded container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, choking off chips headed from Asia to Europe.

Consultant AlixPartners has said the global chip shortage could cost automakers $61 billion in lost sales this year.

A White House official said the agenda for Monday’s summit will include proposals in what Biden calls the “American Jobs Plan” to support the auto industry’s transition to clean energy, job creation and ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness.

“The president is deeply committed to ending the silos between domestic and foreign policy—and the semiconductor shortage is a perfect example of an urgent economic and national security priority for the Biden administration,” Sullivan said in a statement. “The shortage is impacting the lives of American workers and families as plants sit idled. And trying to address supply chains on a crisis-by-crisis basis creates critical national security vulnerabilities.”

The Biden administration is in the middle of a 100-day supply chain review—including for semiconductors—and has called on Congress to pass legislation that would fund chips research and development. The results of the review won’t be made public until June, and Monday’s meeting will inform the outcome, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Intel, Samsung and TSMC have all announced plans to build factories in the U.S., though none of the companies has started construction and the timeline for production at the new plants is potentially years away.

Deese said the pandemic exposed economic vulnerabilities and the importance of robust and reliable supply chains.

“This summit reflects the urgent need to strengthen critical supply chains and strategically position the U.S. economy to lead the 21st century, and we look forward to partnering with our key stakeholders in this effort,” he said in a statement.

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