October 03, 2017
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Tech CEOs meet with U.S. officials ahead of Trump talks

Major U.S. technology company chief executives sat down with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top Trump administration officials on Monday before meeting with the president on cutting government waste and improving information technology services.

Other officials meeting in 10 small group sessions with the executives included Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The four-hour discussions preceded a meeting with President Donald Trump scheduled for 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT).

The White House has enlisted tech CEOs to improve government services, reform outdated information technology systems, cut fraud and government costs and improve services for taxpayers. It has cited an economic opportunity to save up to $1 trillion over 10 years through such measures.

Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, said before the sessions began that the administration wanted to "unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before."

He said the administration was scrapping unneeded cyber compliance rules and should be able to consolidate and eliminate the vast majority of the government's 6,100 data centers and move to a cloud-based storage system.

The meeting with nearly 20 chief executives comes as the White House pushes to shrink government, cut federal employees and eliminate regulations. Many business executives are eager to work with the new administration as they face numerous regulatory and other policy issues.

In May, Trump created an American Technology Council, his latest effort since taking office to modernize the U.S. government. He signed a separate order in March to overhaul the federal government and tapped Kushner to lead a White House Office of American Innovation to leverage business ideas and potentially privatize some government functions.

Others attending include Alphabet Inc Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Chairman John Doerr and the CEOs of Microsoft Corp, International Business Machines Corp, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc, Oracle Corp and Adobe Systems Inc, a White House official said on Sunday. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was invited but could not attend because of a conflict, the company said.

"We're excited to engage," VMware Inc CEO Pat Gelsinger told reporters as he headed into the meeting. Mastercard Inc MACEO Ajay Banga said his company wanted to assist with cyber security issues.

Many CEOs, including Schmidt, IBM and Microsoft, declined to comment as they entered the meeting.

In May, Trump asked lawmakers to cut $3.6 trillion in government spending over the next decade, taking aim at healthcare and food assistance programs for the poor in a budget that also boosted spending on defense.

A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office report estimated the U.S. government spent more than $80 billion in IT annually, excluding classified operations. In 2015, the U.S. government made at least 7,000 separate IT investments and some agencies were using systems that had components at least 50 years old. "This structure is unsustainable," Kushner said.

Chris Liddell, a White House official who directs the American Technology Council and is a former Microsoft and General Motors Co GMchief financial officer, said on Friday the Trump administration aimed to improve government services to at least the level of the private sector.


The CEOs and White House also planned to discuss Trump's review announced in April of the U.S. visa program for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country. Apple CEO Tim Cook plans to raise immigration, a person briefed on the matter said Sunday.

The council also seeks to boost the cyber security of U.S. government IT systems and wants to learn from private-sector practices. In 2015, hackers exposed the personal information of 22 million people from U.S. government databases.

In a document outlining the working-group sessions, the White House said the federal government should require "making it easy for agencies to use the cloud."

The White House thinks it can learn from credit card companies about significantly reducing fraud. A 2016 government audit found that in Medicaid alone, there was $29 billion in fraud in a single year.

Following Trump's June 1 decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger stepped down from White House advisory panels. White House officials said the dispute had little impact and that they had to turn away tech leaders from Monday's event because of lack of space.


(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Chang)