President Donald Trump issued an executive order creating the American Technology Council on Monday, 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 group will include the president, vice president; the secretaries of Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security; the director of national intelligence; and senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner. The council will also include the administrator of the U.S. Digital Service, created in 2014 as part of a push by the Obama administration to improve the federal government's use of IT. Once the positions are filled, the U.S. chief technology officer and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will also serve on the council.
The whole goal of the council is to transform governments technology, making it more efficient. "Americans deserve better digital services from their government," according to the order. "To effectuate this policy, the federal government must transform and modernize its information technology and how it uses and delivers digital services."
The federal government could certainly use the help. Many federal agencies are mired in legacy technology. According to a report released last May from the Government Accountability Office, the federal government spends almost 75% of its $80 billion federal IT budget on operations and maintenance of legacy systems.
Not only is maintaining those old systems expensive, it also prevents the federal government from investing in modern tech that can help it attract new IT talent, decrease spending on maintenance and improve cybersecurity. Cybersecurity incidents in the U.S. federal government increased 1,121% between 2006 and 2014, according to a recent research report.
The new order serves as a directive for improving government technology, but it also establishes the policy intentions of the Trump administration when it comes to technology. By further leveraging relationships with Silicon Valley Trump has worked to establish, government agencies will have the bandwidth to modernize.
A memorandum about the Council released in March said the goal of the council is to implement tested private sector models to help spur government innovation and job creation. But many tech leaders have been critical of certain Trump policies like curbing access to tech talent, casting doubt that he’ll successfully attract private sector tech leaders to the council.