Tech CEOS visit White House to talk modernizing government

WASHINGTON — Technology CEOs were urged by the White House on Monday to pitch in on President Donald Trump’s effort to modernize government.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, were among those attending an afternoon of working groups on issues like technology infrastructure, cyber security and visas for foreign workers.

The gathering was the first event for a technology-focused effort within the White House Office of American Innovation, which seeks to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector.

Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to Trump, welcomed the technology executives, calling them “a very impressive group of leaders from the private sector” being put to work “on some of the country’s biggest challenges that will make a very meaningful difference to a lot of its citizens.”

Also on hand was Trump’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, senior presidential adviser Ivanka Trump

Kushner said that while he had been warned that government change could be slow, he has found “exactly the opposite” and praised the “talented civil servants” he is working with. He also cited some examples of the current technology infrastructure, noting the use of floppy discs in Pentagon “legacy systems.”

Some technology executives have clashed with Trump over his decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Leaders at Apple and Google were among the American corporate executives who appealed to the president to stay in the pact.

Chris Liddell, a White House aide who directs the technology effort, said the executives would participate in a series of working groups, concluding with a session with Trump.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration was focusing on technology this week. He said there was “a lot of room for optimization in the federal government.”

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