Google’s Eric Schmidt Tells Trump to Upgrade Government IT

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Lee Jin-man/AP

Silicon Valley's biggest names advised President-elect Donald Trump on tech policy last week.

At President-elect Donald Trump's recent convocation of Silicon Valley's most senior technology executives, at least one advised him to modernize federal technology.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, said government IT programs needed to be upgraded and are currently outdated and unsafe, Recode reported. (Recode, citing unnamed sources, also reported Schmidt suggested Trump become a "software president," which the president-elect misheard as "soft" president.)

That discussion occurred at a time when Trump's attitude toward federal IT modernization is mostly uncertain. Though he pledged in October to conduct a review of the nation's cybersecurity, his broader tech agenda hasn't been defined.

Still, several members of Congress who support legislation that would require agencies to upgrade their internal technology have won re-election, including Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas. Hurd recently introduced the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which would create working capital funds that agencies could tap to upgrade projects.

That act would also establish a new governmentwide modernization effort other agencies could apply to for additional funds. MGT has passed in the House.

The meeting at Trump Tower drew invitees including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Oracle CEO Safra Catz and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Topics ranged from improving domestic cybersecurity and "introducing greater accountability in the government procurement process," according to a summary of the discussion provided by Trump's transition team.

Trump also asked executives if their data analysis technology could help identify and reduce government waste, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed corporate executives and a transition official.

Microsoft's Nadella discussed immigration with Trump, especially ways the government can help more talented tech workers enter the United States, potentially through systems like H-1B visas, Recode reported. Nadella apparently noted Microsoft's research and development investments were based largely in the United States.

The president-elect has suggested meeting regularly with those tech leaders, perhaps four times yearly, the transition team's summary says.

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