Trump taps tech titans to tackle government waste

Tech leaders from America’s biggest companies arrived at the White House to meet with President Donald Trump Monday, to discuss innovative ways to streamline government services, trim regulations and cut federal costs.

"Government … has relied too long on past practices as automatic justification of their continuation," senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner said Monday. To illustrate his point, he noted the Department of Defense still uses of 8-inch floppy disks while many agencies are still complying with guidance issued during Y2K.

This is the first meeting of the American Technology Council, which was created by the president in May with the specific aim of modernizing government communication and infrastructure in order to improve the efficiency of the federal bureaucracy. The group will break out into ten different working sessions to discuss everything from cyber security to cloud computing and immigration reform.

During a conference call Friday, White House officials said they saw an “economic opportunity” to cut $1 trillion in technology related costs over the next decade by improving IT. This comes as the White House looks to reduce government spending across all sectors and federal agencies.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs will be another big focus for the group of tech leaders, Kushner said Monday, claiming tech improvements can improve the lives of U.S. veterans who “deserve better.”

“The VA has 532 forms on, the majority of which are not accessible by modern browsers. Most services still use paper forms, including 90 percent of health care applications and 86 percent of claims,” Kushner said.

One controversial issue that will be debated Monday is the H-1B visa program, which is of high importance to the Silicon Valley greats. The program allows the government to temporarily admit skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations – and many of them are employed by tech companies. The Trump administration has said that U.S. businesses are abusing this program at the expense of qualified American workers who are seeking employment opportunities. The president signed an executive order in April directing federal agencies to review and propose changes to the program.

Leaders in attendance Monday include Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) CEO Brian Krzanich, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella, IBM (NYSE:IBM) CEO Ginni Rometty, Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) CEO Eric Schmidt and Accenture (NYSE:ACN) CEO Julie Sweet.

Already this year, multiple tech leaders have withdrawn from White House councils over the president’s controversial policies. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left a White House business council in February following public criticism over his participation and Trump’s travel ban. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk abandoned his posts earlier this month over the White House’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

Monday’s meeting will be conducted in concert with the Office of American Innovation, led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, which was created in March to implement job creation policies by working with, and modeling programs after, the private sector.