President Donald Trump met with the tech leaders that make up his American Technology Council on Monday, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, according to Reuters. In total, there were 18 heads of major U.S. technology companies.
Trump wants the tech sector’s help to make government IT more effective, modern and efficient. The government could save up to $1 trillion over 10 years by modernizing and streamlining its IT systems, Trump said.
"Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution," said Trump, according to a Techspot report. "America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect, and we are going to start our big edge again in technology — such an important industry."
Trump launched the American Technology Council in May to "coordinate the vision strategy, and direction for the federal government's use of information technology (IT) and the delivery of services through information technology."
The federal government needs the private sector’s help. Federal agencies are mired in legacy technology, and spend almost 75% of its $80 billion federal IT budget on operations and maintenance of legacy systems, according to a report released last May from the Government Accountability Office. That cost is not sustainable long-term, and as a businessman, Trump knows to make any progress first involves stopping the financial waste.
Despite the fact that many tech leaders have been critical of Trump, and though many onlookers doubted Trump’s ability to recruit tech leaders to the council, the meeting attracted many big-name IT CEOs. Some said the good turnout was likely due to tech leader’s desire to be heard on other issues they don’t agree with Trump on, like reform of the H-1B program and immigration controls. After all, it’s all about giving a little to get a little.
There is already a large investment from the private sector to help reshape federal IT. Government agencies are rapidly migrating to the cloud, freeing up personnel to work more transformative projects. And legislators are working to pass the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which is designed as a cost-saving measure to help federal agencies transform technology and reduce cost of maintenance.
Transformation, however, doesn't happen overnight. Experts have to chip away at legacy tech migrations, moving systems in parts to more modern platforms. That's where the U.S. Digital Service comes into play. The USDS is working to create more digital solutions for citizens. One such project at the Department of Veteran's Affairs is working to consolidate veteran's services on one platform to make them more accessible.