A slew of high tech heavyweights, some of whom have criticized President Donald Trump’s policies, huddled at the White House Monday as the administration kicked off its “technology week.”
The chief executive officers of companies ranging from Amazon (the world’s largest internet company by revenue) to cloud computing giant VMware, held meetings with White House and other Trump administration officials to generate ideas to attempt to transform and modernize government services.
The 18 corporate leaders cumulatively represent more than $3.5 trillion in market value, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
“Today we’ve assembled a very impressive group of leaders from the private sector and are putting them to work here today to work on some of the country’s biggest challenges that will make a very meaningful difference to a lot of its citizens,” said White House senior advisor Jared Kushner.
Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said the goal is to “work to modernize the government’s technology infrastructure.” He added that he was warned when he took the job that the bureaucracy would resist change but “so far, I have found exactly the opposite.”
Kushner and others are lamenting legacy tech issues with the sprawling federal government, which maintains more than 6,000 data centers. Some of the system stretches back more than a half century.
The Department of Defense is still using floppy disks in some of its computer systems, Kushner noted.
“Our goal here is simple. We are here to improve the day to day lives of the average citizen,” he said. “That’s a core promise and we are keeping it.”
Specifically, there are hopes to save $1 trillion over a decade by cutting government IT costs, according to administration officials.
Monday’s White House event includes working sessions focused on citizen services, cloud computing, analytics, cybersecurity, big data, purchasing and contract reform, talent recruitment and retraining, government and private sector partnerships, H1-B visas and future trends, according to a White House official.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to attend some of the meetings.
Other prominent administration participants include General H.R. McMaster, who is the national security advisor; Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert; Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget; and three cabinet secretaries: Steven Mnuchin of Treasury, John Kelly of Homeland Security and Wilbur Ross of Commerce.
Participating Silicon Valley chief executives, besides Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Pat Gelsinger of VMware, include Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (parent company of Google), Tim Cook of Apple, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Steven Mollenkopf of Qualcomm, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe and Ginni Rometty of IBM.
Several of those attending also were at a similar meeting Trump convened last December before his presidential inauguration.
Notably absent from this second meeting is Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, who recently quit as an outside economic advisor to the president in protest of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Trump in May created an American Technology Council to modernize the federal government, two months after he signed an order to overhaul government and selected Kushner to lead a White House Office of American Innovation.