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Pentagon, With an Eye on China, Pushes for Help From American Tech

来源:纽约时报    2019-10-28 05:15

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        SAN FRANCISCO — Pentagon officials have been holding private discussions with tech industry executives to wrestle with a key question: how to ensure future supplies of the advanced computer chips needed to retain America’s military edge.        旧金山——五角大楼官员一直在私下会见高科技产业高管,以应对一个重大问题:如何在未来确保先进计算机芯片的供应,从而维持美国的军事优势。
        The talks, some of which predate the Trump administration, recently took on an increased urgency, according to people who were involved or briefed on the discussions. Pentagon officials encouraged chip executives to consider new production lines for semiconductors in the United States, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks were confidential.        据与会人士称,这些对话——其中一些发生在特朗普上任前——最近愈发凸显出其紧迫性。一位因会谈的机密性而不愿透露姓名的与会者称,五角大楼官员鼓励芯片企业高管考虑在美国建造新的半导体生产线。
        The discussions are being driven by the Pentagon’s increased dependence on chips made abroad, especially in Taiwan, as well as recent tensions with China, these people said.        他们称,会谈的起因是五角大楼越来越依赖在境外制造的芯片,特别是在台湾地区制造的芯片,同时也因为最近对华关系十分紧张。
        One chip maker, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, better known as TSMC, plays a particularly crucial role producing commercial chips that also have applications for aircraft, satellites, drones and wireless communications. And because of unrest over the past few months in the semiautonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong, some Pentagon officials and chip executives have wondered about situations that could force suppliers in Taiwan to limit or cut off silicon shipments, the people said.        其中一家芯片制造商——台湾积体电路制造股份有限公司,即我们熟知的台积电(TSMC)——在商业芯片领域地位举足轻重,其所产芯片可用于航天器、卫星、无人机和无线通讯。知情人士称,由于过去数月中国的半自治地区香港出现的动荡局势,部分五角大楼官员和芯片制造商担心,台湾供应商可能被迫限制或切断硅片供应。
        Mark Liu, the chairman of TSMC, said he had recently discussed options for a new factory in the United States with the Commerce Department. The stumbling block was money; major subsidies would be required, he said, as it is more expensive to operate in America than Taiwan.        台积电董事长刘德音说,他最近与商务部讨论了在美国新建工厂事宜。他说主要障碍是资金;需要大量补贴,因为在美国的运营成本远超台湾。
        “It is all up to when we can close the cost gap,” he said in an interview.        “一切都取决于我们何时能缩小成本差距,”他在接受采访时说。
        The conversations are a sign of how federal agencies are grappling with a deep-rooted technology conundrum. The United States has long fielded the most advanced weaponry by exploiting electronic components once exclusively produced in the country. Chips help tanks, aircraft, rockets and ships navigate, communicate with one another and engage enemy targets.        这些会谈说明联邦机构正努力克服一个根深蒂固的技术难题。美国一直在其最先进的武器中使用曾经只在本国生产的电子元件。芯片可以辅助坦克、飞机、火箭和舰船的导航、互相通讯,以及攻击敌方目标。
        But domestic production lines of many chips have long since moved overseas, raising questions about supply interruptions in the event of political or military crises abroad. Those fears have been exacerbated by the increasing importance of particular components — such as programmable chips that figure prominently in the F-35 fighter jet, which are designed by the Silicon Valley company Xilinx and mainly fabricated in Taiwan.        但许多芯片的国内生产线早已转移至国外,让人担心一旦国外出现政治或军事危机,供应会遭到中断。特殊元件的重要性不断增加,这些担忧也愈发加剧——例如在F-35战斗机上发挥了突出作用的可编程芯片是由硅谷塞灵思公司(Xilinx)研发的,生产制造主要在台湾。
        Some chips, such as the wireless baseband processors needed for new 5G communications abilities that Pentagon officials covet, require advanced manufacturing technology that has become a key selling point of TSMC.        一些芯片,比如五角大楼官员窥觎已久的新一代5G通信能力所需的无线基带处理器,在生产中需要用到先进的制造技术,而这些技术已经成为台积电的重要卖点。
        “We in the Defense Department cannot afford to be shut out of all of those capabilities,” said Lisa Porter, deputy under secretary for research and engineering, in remarks at an event in July that were later widely circulated among chip makers.        “这些能力是我们国防部必须掌握的,”研究与工程副次长丽萨·波特(Lisa Porter)在七月的一个活动中表示,此番讲话在芯片制造商中广为流传。
        Dr. Porter, at a technology event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, said secure supply chains for both essential components and software were a “macro” issue that the Pentagon and the tech industry had to collaborate on. She declined to discuss specific efforts to bolster American chip production. A Defense Department spokesman also declined to comment.        周三在洛杉矶的一场科技活动上,波特说,确保关键部件和软件供应链安全,是五角大楼和科技公司必须合作解决的“宏观”问题。她拒绝就加强美国芯片制造的具体措施置评。一位国防部发言人也拒绝发表评论。
        In another sign of action, Skywater Technology, a Minnesota chip manufacturing service, said this week that the Defense Department would invest up to $170 million to increase its production and enhance technologies, such as the ability to produce chips that can withstand radiation in space.        还有一个事例表明了在这方面的行动,明尼苏达州芯片制造服务商Skywater Technology本周声明,国防部将投入1.7亿美元来帮助其提高产能并改善技术,例如生产能承受太空辐射的芯片。
        The Skywater investment illustrates how the Pentagon is also wrestling with how to upgrade aging technology at domestic companies that make small volumes of classified chips tailored for the military. Such “trusted” factories, as they are called, operate under Pentagon rules aimed at preventing sabotage or data theft.        对Skywater的投资说明五角大楼也在努力解决国内企业老旧技术升级的问题,这些企业承担了少量军方定制的机密芯片的生产。这些被认为“可信任”的生产商遵循五角大楼规则运营,以防止破坏或数据窃取。
        Dr. Porter and other Pentagon officials have pushed for new technical safeguards besides guards and employee background checks to keep sensitive chip designs secure, a strategy that would help the Defense Department use more advanced commercial factories. She called the idea a “zero-trust” philosophy.        除安保和雇员背景调查以外,波特和其他五角大楼官员推行新的技术防护措施,以保守敏感芯片设计机密,这一策略将有助于国防部利用更先进的商业芯片工厂。她称这一设想是一种“零信任”理念。
        TSMC, which dominates the build-to-order services called foundries, recently took the lead from Intel in shrinking chip circuitry to give chips greater capability. Its production edge is one reason the company has continued to win business from big American chip designers such as Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia, whose chips have become increasingly important for defense as well as civilian applications.        台积电是一种称为“芯片代工”的接单制造服务的主导者,近年在缩小芯片电路以增强芯片性能方面领先于英特尔。生产制造优势是它能持续获得苹果、高通和英伟达等大型美国芯片设计公司订单的原因之一,这些公司的芯片在国防和民用方面的重要性与日俱增。
        The United States remains the leading supplier and innovator in most chip technologies, including the processors that Intel sells for nearly all personal computers and server systems. But the Pentagon’s research arm — DARPA, for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has been trying since 2017 to spur chip innovations under a $1.5 billion Electronics Resurgence Initiative.        美国仍是大多数芯片技术中领先的供应商和创新者,包括用于几乎所有个人电脑和服务器系统的英特尔处理器。但五角大楼研究机构——国防高级研究计划局(DARPA)——自2017年开始一直在通过一项15亿美元的电子复兴计划刺激芯片创新。
        Its goals include finding alternatives to silicon for manufacturing and packaging small “chiplets” together instead of making big monolithic chips.        它的其中一个目标是寻找硅的替代品,以便制造和封装小的“芯片粒子”,而不是生产大的单片芯片。
        “We have vulnerabilities we really need to address, but we are still the dominant producer of electronics in the world,” said Mark Rosker, the director of DARPA’s microsystems technology office. He said questions about the American semiconductor industry called for “a graceful and considered kind of panic.”        DARPA微系统技术办公室主任马克·罗斯科尔(Mark Rosker)说,“我们确实有缺陷需要弥补,但我们仍然是全球电子产品生产的主导者”。他认为美国半导体产业的问题需要用“一种优雅而审慎的恐慌”去应对。
        Much of the recent urgency stems from China’s growing stature as a chip innovator. Designers there have developed chips for sensitive applications such as supercomputers. Many of the designers — including Huawei, a key target of the Trump administration in the trade war — also rely on TSMC for manufacturing.        最近的紧迫感来自于中国作为芯片创新者地位的攀升。他们的研发者开发出了敏感应用芯片,比如超级计算机。很多研发者——包括特朗普政府贸易战的主要目标华为——在生产上同样依赖台积电。
        Another impetus for action stems from a recent pullback by GlobalFoundries. The chip maker, owned by investors in Abu Dhabi, has spent around $12 billion on a sophisticated factory in Malta, N.Y. But it announced last year that it would stop trying to create smaller circuitry than that on its existing production processes.        采取行动的另一个原因是格芯(GlobalFoundries)最近的撤退。这家由阿布扎比投资人所有的芯片制造商耗资120亿美元,在纽约州马耳他建了一座先进的工厂。但公司去年宣布将停止生产比现有生产工艺更小的电路系统。
        GlobalFoundries now produces classified chips under the trusted foundry rules in two former IBM factories it took over in 2015. Company executives believe the technology in its Malta facility remains advanced enough to also serve military needs for years, and it is negotiating with officials to handle future classified work through proposed modifications to the government’s trusted foundry regulations. It recently filed a lawsuit accusing TSMC of patent infringement, an action that it said was aimed partly at protecting the American manufacturing base.        格芯目前通过其2015年接手的两家前IBM工厂生产符合受信任代工规定的机密芯片。公司高管认为其马耳他工厂技术的先进程度足以满足军方未来几年的需求,并且目前正与官方谈判,希望对政府信任代工规则进行修改,以用于未来的机密工作。该公司最近提起诉讼,状告台积电侵犯其专利,其自述此诉讼一部分原因是保护美国生产制造基地。
        The company, which announced plans for a $10 billion factory in China in 2017, is also rethinking that project as the promised demand from customers there now seems uncertain, said Thomas Caufield, the chief executive of GlobalFoundries.        格芯曾在2017年宣布在中国投资100亿美元建厂,目前该计划也需要从长计议,公司首席执行官托马斯·科菲尔德(Thomas Caufield)称中国客户承诺的需求现在似乎不确定。
        Influencing the chip industry used to be easier when the Defense Department accounted for a major portion of chip sales. Now defense applications are dwarfed by civilian uses, such as smartphones and personal computers. More of the Pentagon’s budget now goes to chips like memory and processors whose designs are shaped by commercial needs.        当国防部占据芯片销售的主要份额时,要影响芯片行业曾经是很容易的。如今,在智能手机和个人电脑等民用领域面前,国防用途相形见绌。五角大楼现在的预算更多用于内存和处理器等芯片,它们是根据商业需求而设计的。
        At a recent panel of semiconductor industry veterans in Silicon Valley, the concern about an overreliance on TSMC was evident.        最近在硅谷举行的一次半导体行业资深人士参加的会议上,人们对过度依赖台积电的担忧显而易见。
        “What will happen when China makes its drive toward Taiwan? What will happen to TSMC?” asked Diane Bryant, a former Intel executive who is now a technology investor. “What is our way out of this pickle?”        “当中国向台湾推进时会发生什么?台积电将会怎样?”前英特尔高管、现为科技投资者的黛安·布莱恩特(Diane Bryant)问道。“我们怎样才能摆脱这种困境?”
        The panelists suggested that the federal government should subsidize more domestic chip production. But advanced commercial factories can cost as much as $15 billion, plus the additional recurring costs to run, staff and supply such facilities.        专家组建议联邦政府应对更多国内芯片生产进行补贴。但是,先进商业工厂的成本可能高达150亿美元,此外还有这些设施的运营、配员和供应等经常性成本。
        “It’s a big dilemma,” said Handel Jones, a semiconductor consultant with International Business Strategies. “Our assessment was you have to spend big money.”        “这是个大难题,”国际商业战略(International Business Strategies)的半导体顾问韩德尔·琼斯(Handel Jones)表示。“我们的评估是,你得花一大笔钱。”
        Dr. Liu of TSMC dismissed fears about Taiwan’s continued autonomy. He said he was weighing the pros and cons of a new American factory, though it was too early for a decision. If the financial challenges are overcome, he said, any new facility is likely to be smaller than TSMC’s massive plants in Taiwan and built near a factory it operates in Camas, Wash.        台积电的刘德音认为没必要担心台湾能否保持自治地位。他说,他正在权衡在美国新建一家工厂的利弊,不过现在做出决定还为时过早。他说,如果财务挑战得以克服,新工厂的规模可能也要小于台积电在台湾的大型工厂,将会建在台积电位于华盛顿州卡马斯的工厂附近。
        “We want to do what makes the best sense for our customers to help them to be competitive, and also deal with national-security concerns,” Dr. Liu said.        “我们希望做对客户最有利的事情,帮助他们提高竞争力,同时顾及国家安全问题,”刘德音说。

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