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Trump Vows To ‘Transform’ US Government IT

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The presidential administration has invited dozens of tech executives to advise the American Technology Council at a June meeting

US president Donald Trump on Monday ordered the formation of a technology organisation intended to “transform and modernise” government IT, and the White House confirmed it is planning a meeting with tech executives in early June to advise the new body.

“The Federal Government must transform and modernise its information technology and how it uses and delivers digital services,” reads the executive order forming the American Technology Council.

Tech executives invited

The administration declined to name the executives invited to attend the June meeting, but reports citing unnamed sources suggested companies including Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Salesforce and SpaceX had been contacted.

Trump has already met with executives from several of those companies since becoming president. The administration said about 20 executives should take part in the meeting.

White HouseOracle confirmed chief executive Safra Catz intends to take part, and reports said IBM chief executive Virginia Rometty is also likely to attend.

The council is to be chaired by Trump and directed by Chris Liddell, a former Microsoft and General Motors executive who is the White House’s director of strategic initiatives.

It also includes the defence secretary, homeland security secretary, budget director and director of national intelligence and the president’s senior advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, as well as tech-centric staff such as the chief technology officer.

The head of the Digital Service established under Barack Obama is also included as a member of the council.

Policy coordination

The body’s remit is to coordinte the government’s overall technology strategy and tech advice to the president on policy matters, according to the executive order.

The order follows a plan launched in March to overhaul the federal government under the new White House Office of American Innovation, led by Kushner. That directive is aimed at making use of some business ideas in government and potentially privatising some government functions.

us government capitol kropic1A 2016 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated the government spends $80 billion (£62bn) a year on IT, excluding military spending and investments by dozens of executive branch agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency.

The report found US government IT systems “are becoming increasingly obsolete” with many using outdated programming languages and unsupported hardware, and some agencies relying on systems that use components at least 50 years old.

A system used by the Department of Defence to coordinte the US’ nuclear forces uses 8-inch floppy disks and the Treasury Department’s master file of tax data on individual business income tax payers dates back to the 1950s and runs on an IBM mainframe, the GAO said.

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