May 17, 2022
On February 24, 2022, the Biden administration unveiled a massive, history-making collection of supply chain reports. A combined 1,358 pages in length, these 19 reports were written by seven federal agencies and numerous staff from a network of 17 national labs. Collectively, they represent the first time since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration that the US federal government has taken it upon itself to not only inventory the industrial resources of the national and global economies, but also set out detailed industrial policy targets designed to equip those industries to meet today's most important existential challenges. Released on the same day as Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, the reports understandably received little notice from the press and public. But amid the growing geo-economic rift wrought by the war, policymakers of democracies are attempting to rapidly unwind their economic exposure to autocracies—making the reports even more relevant.This issue brief highlights three of the reports' most important contributions. First, the reports demonstrate that everything is related to climate now. Whether the authoring agency is seen as having an environmental mandate or not, and whether the industry under study in a given report is obviously climate-related (like green hydrogen) or not (semiconductors), guaranteeing the future resilience of every industry requires planning for the destabilization that the climate crisis has brought and will continue to bring. Second, the supply chain reports show that policy in Washington is increasingly oriented toward a broader conception of the role of the state in the economy that goes beyond remedying narrow market failures. The final—and crucial—point these reports demonstrate is that policymakers have still not settled on a fully fledged paradigm for what precisely this broader role for the state could or should look like, nor what governance institutions should be formed to support that new role. The scope of this new role could include fostering better coordination among competing and complementary demands for scarce resources, standing up new institutions and sticks to hold industry accountable, and directly producing and owning needed resources. Additionally, policymakers should rewrite international rules to better support this agenda and learn to leverage the power of organized labor as a partner in industrial policy, which can in turn aid racial justice and material equality.