Trump trumps US Digital Service with order to establish American Technology Council

'Americans must transform and modernize its information technology' but Silicon Valley hasn't been invited to help

By Simon Sharwood


United States president Donald Trump has issued an executive order to establish an “American Technology Council” and given it a job to “coordinate the vision, strategy, and direction for the Federal Government's use of information technology and the delivery of services through information technology”.

The United States already has a Digital Service with a mission “to deliver better services to the American people”, plus an organisation called 18f that, among other things, offers government agencies help doing things like “Improve public-facing services like websites or applications” and offers advice on “how to plan successful projects, build custom software, get better results with vendors, or learn how to work in new ways.”

This new Council looks like an effort to go beyond even those activities, as the heads of the Digital Service and the General Services Administration, which runs 18f, will both be members of the council.

So will Trump himself, as chair of a heavweight roster that includes the veep, the secretaries of defence, commerce, homeland security, the US CTO, the designated senior advisers to the president (in this case Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller) and even some military and intelligence types. The latter seem a little out of place as the Council's remit stops short of classified matters.

There will also be a new director of the American Technology Council, a gig that's gone to Chris Liddell, a New Zealander and former Microsoft executive who's already working in the White House and is thought to be close to Kushner.

The Council's been given the following chores:

(i) coordinate the vision, strategy, and direction for the Federal Government's use of information technology and the delivery of services through information technology;

(ii) coordinate advice to the President related to policy decisions and processes regarding the Federal Government's use of information technology and the delivery of services through information technology; and

(iii) work to ensure that these decisions and processes are consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and that the policy is being effectively implemented.

Neither the USDS or 18f are mentioned among the agencies due for de-funding or closure under president Trump's Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again (PDF), so this looks like the president wants to accelerate digital service development. Which shouldn't surprise, as Kushner is keen on that idea and is known to have the president's ear.

Tellingly, no representatives of big silicon valley concerns have anything to do with the Council, although the executive order summoning it into existence allows for temporary members to be added if it's felt necessary to do so.

Just when the Council will meet and what it will direct government agencies to do is not clear: the president's released only the executive order and has not spoken or Tweeted about his hopes and dreams for the Council. ®

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