Trump seeks to upgrade US government IT services

Reportedly, about 20 technology chief executives will discuss upgrading the government’s IT services during a June meeting

President Donald Trump is launching a special council to upgrade the U.S. government’s IT services at a time when some systems more than 50 years old. Americans deserve better digital services from their government,” the

"Americans deserve better digital services from their government," said an executive order from Trump, released on Monday.

The order seeks to "promote the secure, efficient and economical use" of IT. As part of that goal, Trump is establishing the American Technology Council, which he will chair.

Joining him on the council will be more a dozen other leaders in the federal government, including the secretary of defense, secretary of commerce, and the secretary of homeland security.

The council can also invite additional attendees. Reportedly, about 20 technology chief executives will attend meetings at the White House in June to discuss upgrading the government’s IT services.

Chris Liddell, a former Microsoft CFO, will help run the council, the White House said. 

Last year, a U.S. government office warned that many legacy systems in use were becoming obsolete and dependent on software and hardware no longer supported. For instance, the Department of Defense still relies on 8-inch floppy disks to coordinate operations for its nuclear arms. U.S. taxpayers' data is also processed with systems more than 50 years old.

The White House released Monday's order a month after it established the Office of American Innovation. That office was designed to bring the best ideas from the government and the private sector, to develop policies that can create jobs and improve federal operations.  

In December, Trump held a high-profile meeting with U.S. tech leaders. "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," he said then.

Trump's new American Technology Council will coordinate strategy for federal government IT use and also give advice to the president on related policy matters. The council can also function through ad hoc committees, task forces, and interagency groups.  

However, the U.S. national security system will not fall under the council's scope. Nevertheless, the U.S. director of national intelligence can provide classified information on cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities to the council.

Although Trump has talked up the innovation from Silicon Valley, U.S. tech firms have largely opposed the president's past positions on trade and immigration.

Experts have also said the U.S. needs to badly bolster its cyber defenses against hacking threats. So far, Trump has been taking his time to come up with a cybersecurity plan, despite a past pledge to do so, within 90 days of taking office.  

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Michael Kan

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