Tech Bigwigs Arrive in D.C. for Government Showdown

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Leaders of the biggest technology companies are meeting at the White House today, as part of a day-long event to bring the industry and government closer together. The meeting of the American Technology Council, chaired by Jared Kushner, brings together some of tech’s key players, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt of Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

The aim of the day, laid out in a ten-point document given to attendees in advance, is to help government streamline services and bureaucracy using technological solutions. Programs such as the failed healthcare.gov and Defense Digital Service will be discussed at length. On Friday a government official told Reuters that the White House hopes to slash government services costs by $1 trillion in the next decade.

But the summit will surely serve another purpose: to stymie the widening gap between the ideology and philosophy of the tech industry with those of President Donald Trump. A proposed travel ban on Muslims entering the United States, a hardline stance on working visas, opposition to net neutrality and a recent decision to drop out of the Paris climate accord have created a rift between Trump and tech.

Tech impresarios Travis Kalanick and Elon Musk drew ire from liberal voices for their initial agreement to assist the Trump administration on tech matters. But even they have cut ties with the President. Musk in particular was scathing of the Paris decision, describing it as “not good for America or the world.”

Today’s event will pit tech’s top leaders against Kushner, Trump and co in pushing the industry’s agenda. This will include issues over tax, antitrust and asset relocation. Trump has promised big tax breaks for companies bringing assets back to American shores.

Whether tech’s bigwigs return from their White House trip with any bridges to government mended will be the result of long and grueling meetings. But it is clear that the new President has pitted himself against one of his nation’s biggest sectors on a wide array of issues. Smoothing those differences could be key not just to saving government money, but keeping the US tech industry flying above all others.