The roundtable in the State Dining Room with the American Technology Council POTUS opened in a somber tone, informing the room that Otto Warmier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student who had been detained in North Korea, had just died.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It’s great to have you at the White House. And I just wanted to pass on the word — Otto Warmbier has just passed away. He spent a year and a half in North Korea. A lot of bad things happened. But at least we got him home to be with his parents, where they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition. But he just passed away a little while ago. It’s a brutal regime, and we’ll be able to handle it.
But I want to thank you all for being here, special people. I’m really thrilled to welcome many of you for the first time, and certainly the first time meeting as the American Technology Council. We’re joined by an incredible group of leaders on the absolute cutting edge of innovation, including many CEOs from the world’s most successful businesses.
We have approximately $3.5 trillion of market value in this room — but that’s almost the exact number that we’ve created since my election. (Laughter.) In fact, I think we have you beat by a little bit, which is a pretty good number. But I congratulate you all. Done an amazing job. Thank you for lending your time and your talent to the American people. A lot of ideas have come out of the room today, and a lot of ideas will over the next short period of time.
I also want to welcome Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Kelly, Administrator Verma, and my Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney. Thank you all. Done a great job. I want to thank Jared and Chris — Chris Liddell — for assembling such a spectacular group of people. They’re working very, very hard. I want to thank Ivanka for working so hard on it; it’s a real passion.
Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyberattacks — which we were just discussing in the Oval Office with a little bit smaller group. That’s a big problem, there’s no question about it. We’re going to be working on it and we’re going to solve the problem — and up to a trillion dollars in savings for taxpayers over the next 10 years. Over a trillion.
We’re embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives to transform government and make it the way it should be, and at far less cost.
My administration has already taken very historic steps to modernize critical IT systems and make government more transparent. As an example, you’re seeing what we’re doing with the airports, with all of the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent on planes flying all in the wrong directions — we’re getting a change. They’ve spent many billions of dollars, and we are getting that whole system fixed. Money wasted over the last six or seven years — billions.
VA Secretary Shulkin recently announced that we’re upgrading technology to allow the seamless transfer of veterans’ medical records from the Defense Department, which has been a huge problem for decades and decades for our great veterans. We’ll have it fixed very soon, but it’s been a problem for many, many decades. Across government, we’re fixing problems in months that others have not fixed in many, many years. And we’re just getting started.
Fifty years ago, our government drove the innovation that inspired the world and put Americans on the moon. Today, many of our agencies rely on painfully outdated technology, and yet, we have the greatest people in technology that the world has ever seen right here with us in this room. And most of them are just nodding as I say that. They’re actually agreeing with me, which — (laughter) — that’s interesting, Eric, right?
The government needs to catch up with the technology revolution. We’re going to change that with the help of great American businesses like the people assembled. The businesses represented here today employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. Your innovation has shaped the modern world and created millions of jobs. America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect, and we are going to start our big edge again in technology -– such an important industry. I view it from the standpoint of jobs and other things; you view it somewhat differently. But we’re all in the same ballpark. It’s so important. So important.
My administration is embracing a new spirit of innovation that will make life better for all Americans. And when it comes to what we’re here for today, American technology, we’re working very diligently with everybody, including Congress, on immigration so that you can get the people you want in your companies. And it’s been a tremendous problem that you’ve had over the past long period of time. So we’re working very hard on that and we’ll be able to solve that problem.
I want to thank everyone in the room for lending your time, again.