Trump Orders Modernization of the US Federal Government

Image Source:

Image Source:

Last month President Trump called for the help of tech leaders of Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft with the purpose of modernizing the federal government in his aim to save US taxpayers $1 trillion for the next 10 years. Just like past administrations, the Trump administration admits outdated technologies are a hurdle.

“We’re going to be working on it and we’re going to solve the problem, and up to a trillion dollars in savings for taxpayers over the next 10 years. Over a trillion,” declared the president.

American Technology Council

Chris Liddell, CFO of Microsoft Corp., holds up a copy of the Windows 7 computer operating system during a rally to celebrate the release of Windows 7 at the Microsoft Campus Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009, in Redmond, Wash. During the gathering Liddell pushed a button to officially start the NASDAQ stock market trading day.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Chris Liddell, former CFO of Microsoft Corp. and is the Director of Strategic Initiatives in the White House. Also Assistant to Donald Trump. (AP Photo: Ted S. Warren, 2009)

The American Technology Council, as it was eventually called, was organized by the White House Office of American Innovation, which is headed by White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner. It is led Chris Liddell, formerly of Microsoft and GM. Members of the council are representatives from top tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM. Attendees include Jeff Bezos, the leader of Amazon; Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple; Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet; Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella; CEO of Oracle, Safra Catz; Alex Karp, the leader of Palantir with, Peter Thiel, who backed Palantir and is also attending the meeting; and other top executives of Accenture, Adobe, Akamai, Intel, IBM, OpenGov, MasterCard, Qualcomm, SAP and VMware.

However Facebook and Tesla didn’t join. Mark Zuckerberg was said to be having a conflict and could not attend while Elon Musk pulled out of the council in the wake of Trump’s decision to have US leave from the Paris Accord, a move that has been largely criticized by the tech industry.

Part of the big goals the council is to modernize the federal government’s technology. The two other goals of the council are to decrease government spending in IT and other technology sectors and to increase cyber security efforts for the federal government. The White House also seeks to improve outdated websites and do away with paper-based forms by digitizing government services. They believe that it should be as easy to apply for benefits as it is to deposit a check on your phone. They are also interested in using new and emerging technologies to solve illegal immigration issues and federal resource fraud.

“This is the beginning of a multi-year process,” a senior Trump administration official told the press. “But we have to start now. And this day we believe will be a significant one in terms of generating ideas and potential solutions to some of the problems.”

How Bad is it?

Elon Musk, withdrew from the council after Trump withdrew from the Paris Accord. (Image Source: Businessinsider)

Elon Musk, withdrew from the council after Trump withdrew from the Paris Accord. (Image Source: Businessinsider)

The Obama Administration spent eight years trying to modernize the government but mostly failed, except for the establishment of the U.S. Digital Service that aids federal agencies that is looking to use technology efficiently. The administration also started the process of moving to shared IT infrastructure but was unable to finish.

Cato Institute‘s Julian Sanchez notes that past administrations have failed in the efforts of making a digital transition when the government still had an underground facility that keeps federal employee records on paper. He also added that some laws make the transition from paper to digital a cumbersome process.

Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, admits that this is the first time he heard a president say that the IT infrastructure is out of date and that this is the first time the discussions go all the way to the president. He notes that the new president’s attempt at giving the tech industry a bigger role seems promising and that he hopes it might bridge the divide between the government and the industry. He said that it is important that the two sectors cooperate and for the divide between them to close.