Donald Trump is creating a new government office that will apply lessons learned from American businesses such as Apple and Tesla in a bid to make speedy political reforms, The Washington Post reports. The White House Office of American Innovation — which will be led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — is described as a “SWAT team,” using far-reaching powers to bypass the restrictive machinery of Washington and make sweeping changes.
The Post says that the office has a particular focus on technology and data, and has already met with the biggest names in the US tech industry, including Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is also among the 100-or-so business and government leaders who have already attended sessions with the group.
President Trump gave a statement hinting at the authority the office of innovation would have. “All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” he said to The Washington Post. Kushner said the office would be “an offensive team,” and would take lessons directly from business, pleasing its “customers” with efficiency.
“The government should be run like a great American company,” Kushner said on Sunday. “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.” The group is largely devoid of career politicians so far, drawing most of its number from business. He also indicated that the office would attract top talent from both inside the government and outside, aiming to keep a non-ideological, freewheeling stance that could draw in people who might otherwise have taken jobs in Silicon Valley.
Among the people Kushner’s office have reached out to are several who have criticized his father-in-law’s policies and presidency. Trump’s Muslim ban, in particular, was publicly shot down by Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech giants, and even Elon Musk, who was more receptive to discussion on the topic than most of his peers, came down against the executive order. But with the young Kushner at the head, and a non-partisan stance, the office could be more appealing to the Democrat-leaning Silicon Valley.
“Obviously it has to be done with corresponding values and principles. We don’t agree on everything,” Marc Benioff told The Washington Post. But Benioff, who donated money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, said that Kushner was a more magnetic figurehead than some of his political peers. “I’m hopeful that Jared will be collaborative with our industry in moving this forward. When I talk to him, he does remind me of a lot of the young, scrappy entrepreneurs that I invest in in their 30s.”
Kushner’s first targets are ambitious. The Washington Post says his office aims to modernize the technology and data infrastructure of every federal agency, draw up new training programs for the workforce, and create “transformative projects” like giving broadband to every US citizen. That’s alongside more specific and immediate plans to remodel the Department of Veterans Affairs — one of the promises made by Trump on his campaign trail that he has stuck to.
Certainly, Kushner can be seen as a more collaborative and non-partisan figure than other White House power controllers. That includes vehemently ideological peer Steve Bannon, who has vowed to fight daily for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But whether Kushner is indeed able to effect sweeping changes inside the Washington machine, especially when his father-in-law has publicly failed to do so at every turn, is yet to be seen.