When a new presidential administration comes in, the first steps are putting advisors, cabinet members, and critical government department leaders in place. This effort is typically followed by steps to set strategy, priorities, and layout a plan of action. Once set, that plan becomes more difficult to alter. The ideal time to catch the incoming administration’s attention is when advisors are selected and strategies are set in motion.
Intel’s CEO Bob Swan wrote an open letter to President-Elect Joe Biden that serves two functions during this ideal time. First, it identifies Swan as someone that wants to help the Biden administration succeed and helps assure he is on a list of CEOs likely to be selected as an advisor. Second, it helps set priorities for the new administration to consider.
Not every company or CEO can do this — you have to already be on what is likely a shortlist of firms that will be asked to contribute. You also have to be seen as either a supporter or, at least, non-partisan. Given the current political climate, it becomes less likely that a CEO that has been an outspoken opponent would be taken as seriously because of the fear of a hidden agenda. Intel clearly would be on the shortlist of firms considered to help with the technology segment, and Swan is both well regarded and considered relatively politically neutral. He is also a guy that seems to admire both competence and compassion, so working with the new President-Elect and eventually his administration should be seen as an asset by both sides.
As a result, what Swan wrote should have an impact on what the Biden administration will do. Let’s cover the main points of Swan’s letter this week.
The opening of any letter like this is designed to show support and establish the writer as someone that correctly identifies the critical strategic areas the letter will address. The opening of Swan’s letter highlights the problems evident today in the nation and Intel’s breadth and capability to define a technology strategy. The pandemic, political divisiveness, skill gaps, racial troubles, and increasing global competition (without initially calling out any countries) are all in his opening and set the tone for what follows.
Investment in technology
An investment in technology would benefit the segment, and the President-Elect has already shown an interest in using technology aggressively to address the nation’s problems. Pointing out how technology players helped with vaccine development and all the analytics surrounding mitigation was essential to this goal because it reinforced the accurate belief that technology is critical to the President-Elect’s future success. Specific requests to help fund the broadband connectivity projects, mainly remote care, and help for people working from home, target both the current crisis and the future post-COVID-19 new normal.
Swan points out that the U.S., once the world leader in manufacturing, has fallen behind in semiconductor manufacturing; that sector is now only at 12% of its capacity. The majority of this manufacturing has moved to Asia, putting the U.S. at a significant disadvantage — a situation that was underscored during the shutdown of Asia during the beginning of the pandemic. Swan argues that the U.S. must invest in reversing this trend or forever be in the shadow, and at the mercy, of Asia.
Infrastructure is an identified problem that has not been adequately addressed by several previous presidential administrations. Swan points out that this lack of investment harms the U.S.’s ability to develop for the future and assures eventual second-class status. He argues that funding a reversal of that decline is critical to assuring the U.S.’s future status in the New World Order.
Developing a 21st century workforce
People are our future, but the U.S. hasn’t been doing a good job ensuring that its workforce has the skills needed for today, let alone the future. Swan points out that Intel hired 4,000 people in 2020, but the company was unable to fill 800 jobs. Intel drove education programs to help train the people they need, but the company can’t do this alone. The presidential administration needs to ensure a more robust pipeline for well-qualified workers and create a more diverse high-technology workforce.
Also, to ensure tech companies can get the talent they need from any place in the world, given the lack of that talent currently in the U.S., immigration programs, Swan argues, must be enhanced so that firms are not hurt because of understaffing critical skill sets. He reaffirms Intel’s commitment to diversity from the top to the bottom of the company. The implication is that programs to support these efforts will be critical, not only to Intel’s diversity goals, but also the industry’s as a whole.
In effect, Swan closes his letter with the one initiative that is likely to be best received: a drive to higher diversity in the workplace.
Getting on the administration’s radar
It is critical to get on a new administration’s radar before strategies, tactics, and people are entirely in place. Swan’s letter should do two things that help the Biden administration: it prioritizes their efforts and allows them to consider Swan as an advisor. In the end, these moves are critical to helping the Biden administration prioritize their efforts and choose those that will advise them. Intel stepped up. I expect others will follow shortly.