LONDON Intel's outgoing chief executive officer Craig Barrett has written an essay which warns that U.S. leadership in semiconductors is not inevitable and that to stand any chance in a global competition the U.S. must first choose to compete.
In a move which echoes a letter Barrett sent to all 80,000 Intel employees in July 2004, the Intel CEO has warned the U.S. semiconductor industry against complacency, arguing that the country has not yet woken up to the fact it is in a battle.
Barrett, who is due to become chairman of Intel in May 2005, wrote: "We must resolve as a country that the competition is real, that winning is not inevitable, and that we must decide to be competitive or there will be serious consequences," before going to lay-out a four-step plan for his country.
The essay, published in the quarterly newsletter of the Semiconductor Industry Association, starts out by noting that three billion people have joined the world's free market economic system in just a few years.
Three billion extra potential customers is an opportunity, Barrett noted, before going on to estimate that if just 10 percent of these three billion have sufficient education to enable them to compete for high-tech jobs, that creates a labor pool of 300 million people a workforce slightly larger than the entire U.S. population ready to compete for high-wage jobs.
"Lest anyone misunderstand me, let me make it clear that I believe in competition and welcome the new era of more intense competition," Barrett said in the article before saying that he takes it as "axiomatic" that the U.S. must be a leader in information technology.
Drawing a comparison with the 1980s when Japan challenged U.S. leadership in the semiconductor industry, Barrett argues "U.S. leadership is again under assault but the challenge we now face is global in nature and far broader in scope. Once again, we must rise to the competitive challenge."
Barrett's steps include, repair of the U.S. educational system and an increase in federal spending on basic research, which he said has been essentially flat in absolute terms for twenty years.
Barrett also called for a permanent and improved R&D tax credit that would be a stimulus for innovation, and could go towards narrowing the disparity between building and running a wafer fab in the U.S. and doing the same in Asia, which Barrett estimated to be at least $1 billion over ten years. Finally, the U.S. must adopt a Hippocratic Oath concerning government policy toward business and economic growth: "first, do no harm".
Barrett concluded: "Above all, we must recognize that leadership is not inevitable we must earn it, every day."
Barrett's essay could be found online here when this story was first posted.