Trump welcomes technology executives
Goal was to encourage innovation, efficiency
Despite a rocky relationship with the tech world, President Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner welcomed executives of some of America’s biggest technology companies to the White House on Monday to encourage private-sector solutions to government problems.
Mr. Trump said the assembled group of CEOs represent more than $3.5 trillion in value at their respective companies, and that their know-how will help the government streamline its information technology systems and make services more efficient.
“Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyberattacks,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives to transform government and make it the way it should be, and at far less cost.”
Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who is leading the effort, said the government has 6,100 data centers that can be consolidated, and that some data systems are more than 50 years old.
“Together we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before,” Mr. Kushner told the group. “We are here to improve the day-to-day lives of the average citizen.”
The group included industry leaders who have been at odds with Mr. Trump over his immigration and climate policies. Apple CEO Tim Cook has criticized Mr. Trump for his order temporarily banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries and for pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate treaty.
Alphabet Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt, who also attended, was an influential supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He told an audience of Google employees a week after Mr. Trump’s inauguration that the administration “is going to do these evil things as they’ve done in the immigration area and perhaps some others.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the event showed that Mr. Trump is eager to work with anyone on the left to make government more efficient and save taxpayers money.
“I think it’s pretty telling that the president brings these kind of people together,” Mr. Spicer said. “We will work with individuals, regardless of what their past political beliefs are, to further the president’s agenda and to bring ideas to the table.”
One who didn’t attend was Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who quit two presidential advisory councils earlier this month after Mr. Trump announced that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.
Among the other attendees were Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz and IBM Corp. CEO Ginni Rometty.
Mr. Trump created the American Technology Council by executive order on May 1, calling for an overhaul of technology systems in the federal government, which spends about $80 billion annually on such services.
Mr. Kushner pointed to the example of the announcement earlier this month that the Department of Veterans Affairs will switch to the same software system used by the Pentagon for its electronic health records. That move is expected to cost well over $5 billion and will take several years to implement, and is aimed at making veterans’ services more seamless and faster.
“We will foster a new set of start ups focused on gov-tech and be a global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens’ needs,” Mr. Kushner said, adding that VA Secretary David Shulkin will have a similar “very big” announcement on Friday.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met with technology executives at the White House to mark “technology week.” Some CEOS, however, were absent.