Top tips for interagency coordination when investing in american economic growth and the semiconductor industry

How to apply leading practices to interagency cooperation and effectively steward the U.S. CHIPS Act investments

Author: Lauren Walinsky Savoy

The federal government has many intersecting agencies and bureaus that deliver interconnected – or even overlapping – services to the American people and enterprises. In some cases, this redundancy is critical to serving the diverse needs of this varied population through multiple lenses. In other cases, the overlap can lead to an unintentional waste of taxpayer dollars. When sweeping legislation – such as the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 – is enacted, it is therefore critical to initiate immediate and intentional interagency coordination to ensure that taxpayer dollars can quickly and efficiently be put to work.

The Biden Administration identified this need and assembled a CHIPS Implementation Steering Council (the Council) to coordinate effective implementation of this $52 billion investment that will quickly increase production of semiconductors, strengthen research and design leadership, and grow a diverse semiconductor workforce to give the country a competitive edge on the world stage. There are many impressive leaders from across the federal government, all of whom represent a Department, Agency, or Foundation with a monetary stake and mission-critical interest in the success of this program. And while the Department of Commerce (DOC) has been asked to lead this coordination effort, there are different authorities within that Department itself, but also in the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of State (DOS), and other agencies responsible for stewarding this investment. With Commerce serving as first among equals, but with no true decision-making authority or veto power, how will or could they approach coordinating a successful implementation?

Here are a few leading practices that have emerged as governments have catalyzed social change and innovation to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

  1. Assume nothing. In a well-meaning attempt to move quickly, committee leads can fall into the trap of assuming that other agencies are staying informed simply by attending a meeting or reading meeting notes. Instead, the rapid pace of work dictates a more iterative approach to communications and the need for a curious mindset – a useful trait especially when creating a culture of innovation. Ask often, assume nothing.
  2. Take a kaleidoscope view of problem solving. The CHIPS Act is intentionally trying to tackle many intersecting problems at once, and the Department of Commerce needs to bring a kaleidoscope rather than binoculars to the table. One example is the DOD’s funding for Next Gen microelectronics, which will need to be considered as the DOC is mapping out its research and development innovation hub. These challenges need to be considered in coordinated concert to understand any cross-agency or funding downstream effects of decisions made today.
  3. Use data intentionally. By creating collective outcome-based metrics, the Council will have shared success measures to work toward. Agencies can then share specific data as an enabler for decision making and collaboration, with quantitative milestones embedded in the process to show progress toward implementation.
  4. Overcommunicate. Create a stakeholder engagement and strategic communications plan (and then execute on it!) to foster transparency, collaboration, and trust quickly. Identify liaisons at multiple levels across all agencies who can informally share information on specific topic areas in real time while leveraging formal channels to communicate up to leadership and out to stakeholders.
  5. Clarify roles and responsibilities early. Provide structure to the kaleidoscope approach mentioned above so everyone is aware of cross-agency impact but responsible for specific tasks to accelerate implementation. Codify a decision-making matrix to allow the Council to make low-impact decisions quickly and big decisions thoughtfully and with buy-in.
  6. Stay agile. Documenting roles, responsibilities, communications, etc. is the first step. But creating a hub of innovation necessitates an internal culture of innovation – often counter to government’s nature. Stating this as a guiding principle of implementation can weave it into the fabric and ultimately the success of the Council’s stated goals.

Leading a successful interagency coordination effort is only one part of the implementation of the CHIPS Act. The government must also explore new and expanded public-private partnerships to maximize investment returns. In addition, Deloitte recently released a report on government’s role in shaping and supporting innovation through integrated, agile partnerships with the private sector. Please reach out to the author to discuss recommendations above and methodology to support successful interagency coordination efforts.

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