China Hawks Call for Controls on Open Source Chip Design

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Congressional China hawks sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Thursday, calling for the Department  to regulate the open-source collaboration model employed in modern advanced semiconductor design.  

Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), along with Sen. Marco Rubio and fourteen other lawmakers call for the Commerce Department to “build a robust ecosystem for open-source collaboration among the U.S. and our allies while ensuring the PRC is unable to benefit from that work.”

“The U.S. government should leverage authorities under the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 to require U.S. persons engaging with the PRC on RISC-V technology to first receive an export control license from the Department of Commerce.”

A Reduced Instruction Set Computer is a type of microprocessor architecture that utilizes a small, highly-optimized set of instructions rather than the highly-specialized set of instructions typically found in other architectures.

RISC-V is a free and open-source instruction set used for the development of custom processors that allows anyone to design, manufacture and sell processors, without royalties or licensing fees. 

While DARPA is currently funding a large set of programs around open-source hardware technology, the Swiss-based RISC-V International collaborative claims it has never had DARPA funding, nor pursued or received funding from any government.

The lawmakers asked Secretary Raimondo a number of questions, including:

  • What is the Administration’s plan to prevent the PRC from achieving dominance in the RISC-V technology and leveraging that dominance at the expense of U.S. national and economic security?
  • What are the potential national security risks posed by the expanding use of RISC-V technology? How do existing U.S. government policies related to the use of open-source technologies in sensitive systems address these risks?
  • How would PRC dominance in RISC-V hardware affect the cybersecurity concerns related to Internet of Things and its application to critical infrastructure?

Click HERE to view a copy of the letter.