Tech CEOs to visit White House

Phillip Butler
June 21, 2017

Several of the executives complimented Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to Trump, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior adviser, for helping to drive the initiative.

Tesla's Elon Musk and Disney's Bob Iger may have stepped down from the White House's American Technology Council over policy disagreements with Donald Trump, but 18 of technology's biggest names were still on hand to meet the US President in Washington yesterday.

He also offered a bit of solace for tech executives on concerns his immigration policies would deny the industry talent, saying he was working "very diligently" with Congress on immigration so "you can get the people you want".

A 2016 US Government Accountability Office report estimated the US government spent more than $80 billion in IT annually, excluding classified operations.

The meeting Monday of the American Technology Council, which Trump commissioned in May and which is being shepherded by Kushner, kicks off a week of administration events themed on technology. IBM was prominent last week during the White House's push for apprenticeships. CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz, Alphabet Inc. Apple CEO Tim Cook threw a fundraiser for Trump's former opponent Hillary Clinton past year.

In May, Trump created an "American Technology Council", the latest in a series of efforts to modernise the USA government.

The gathering was the first event for a technology-focused effort within the White House Office of American Innovation, which seeks to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector.

White House officials said on a conference call on Friday that the administration believed there was an "economic opportunity" to save up to $1 trillion over 10 years by significantly cutting government information technology costs, reducing government costs through improved IT, leveraging government buying power and cutting fraud across government agencies.

A recent decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to contract with a private company to manage the department's electronic medical records is an example of the kind of changes the American Technology Council will pursue, the officials said. But numerous information systems used by federal agencies are outdated and inefficient, according to two senior administration officials who briefed reporters about the meeting on condition of anonymity.

The tech CEOs and White House also plan to discuss Trump's review announced in April of the USA visa program for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country.

The meeting was also notable for who didn't attend. In April, the president announced a review of the current program. Although Cook is scheduled to attend today's meeting, he is not a member of the council. Leaders at Apple and Google were among the American corporate executives who appealed to the president to stay in the pact.

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