March 18, 2021

What the Biden Administration Gets Right and Wrong on ICT in the New Supply Chain Executive Order

By John Costello and Robert Morgus

On Feb. 24, President Biden signed an executive order titled “America’s Supply Chains,” outlining a process for the United States to identify and mitigate the risks and challenges it faces in a series of critical supply chains, including that of information and communications technology (ICT). The Cyberspace Solarium Commission, on which we are staff, was asked by Congress in late 2020 to undergo a similar process and propose a strategy and recommendations to secure America’s ICT supply chains. While the Biden administration’s order is a step in the right direction and largely conforms to the approach proposed by the commission, it misses discussions of several key issues raised in the commission’s white paper on the topic. The order differs primarily in scope: While the commission focused explicitly on information and communications technology, the Biden order outlines four different supply chains of interest, including ICT but also batteries, rare earth elements and critical materials, and pharmaceuticals.

The Department of Commerce not only should serve as the lead agency for ICT and semiconductors but also, moving forward, should be the center of any strategy to ensure security and integrity of ICT supply chains.

Despite the differences in scope, the similarities between the commission’s proposed approach and the Biden order are striking. The commission’s white paper highlights the disjointed approach the U.S. government has taken to addressing ICT supply chain challenges, with inefficient efforts spread across myriad departments and agencies and inconsistent collaborations with the private sector. This order signals that the Biden administration intends to coalesce around a unified strategy. However, the order repeats a critical mistake made by past administrations: It does not clearly delineate a lead department or agency for supply chain efforts around ICT and semiconductors. The order gives both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce split responsibility over ICT, among numerous other sectors. The Department of Commerce not only should serve as the lead agency for ICT and semiconductors but also, moving forward, should be the center of any strategy to ensure security and integrity of ICT supply chains—as it holds the authorities to both shape exports and mitigate risk in the domestic market.

Read the full article from Lawfare.

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