As 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama was very much a tech president — his two terms included many technology firsts, and as Government Technology reported last year, his own digital literacy and willingness to consider new approaches to problems is one of the most noticeable distinctions of his administration. Obama's presidency, as he said, was not about him; it was about the heading of this vessel and the sea’s temperament when the next captain relieves him.
And that new captain, just past the 100-days-in-office mark, has seemingly taken a page from Obama's playbook, having signed an executive order on May 1 to establish the American Technology Council.
While this move is not as concrete as some of Obama's — such as the cloud-first policy, his move to slash the number of federally run data centers, or the establishment of the U.S. Digital Service and 18F — the policy is for the federal government to securely, efficiently and economically use IT to achieve its missions.
"Americans deserve better digital services from their Government," the executive order reads. "To effectuate this policy, the Federal Government must transform and modernize its information technology and how it uses and delivers digital services."
The council consists of 19 key members from various agencies, including the council's director, who may also invite agency heads with key service delivery programs, as well as those programs' leaders, to attend meetings on a rotating basis. The president may also invite other officials to attend meetings from time to time.
The council's principle functions include:
coordinating the vision, strategy and direction for the federal government's use of IT and delivery of services through IT; coordinating advice to the president about policy decisions and processes for the federal government's use of IT and the delivery of services through IT; and working to ensure that these decisions and processes are consistent with the policy to transform and modernize the federal government's information technology and how it uses and delivers digital services, and that the policy is being effectively implemented. The executive order states that Trump will serve as the council's chairman, but Forbes reports that former Microsoft executive Chris Liddell will lead the daily operations.
Forbes also notes that this American Technology Council should perhaps not be taken too seriously, as it specifies a prominent role for officials like the U.S. Chief Technology Officer — a position that Trump has yet to appoint. A number of other science and tech positions in the federal government relevant to the American Technology Council also remain vacant.