In comments made candidly to financial backers last week in Chicago, Obama opined on several topics, including his budget negotiating strategy with congressional Republicans and GOP attempts to repeal his health-care reforms.
Attentive radio reporters listening from the White House to an audio feed left open by aides traveling with the president in Chicago also heard Obama’s comments on federal employees and that he thinks government IT is bad “across the board” at the Pentagon, Homeland Security and other agencies.
Sounding exasperated, Obama reportedly said, “Come on, guys. I’m the president of the United States. Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up? It doesn’t happen.”
After several media inquiries, White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Tuesday that Obama “is absolutely right,” adding that “When we came into office, Federal IT was undeniably broken.”
Indeed, just days after taking office, tech-savvy Obama campaign veterans got their first taste of the government’s arcane systems when the White House e-mail system crashed. A similar outage in February affected the White House and neighboring Office of Management and Budget for several hours.
Kundra noted Tuesday that Obama made mention of the government’s IT improvements during his State of the Union address when he noted that “veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse.”
Aides said Kundra and other top officials are slated to update their progress in other areas at a White House event next week.
One of Kundra’s biggest projects is to consolidate the more than 2,000 data centers owned and operated by the government. Data centers house large computers and data storage systems, eating up billions of dollars in energy and operational costs. A widely quoted federal watchdog report on government redundancies cited data centers as a major source of overlap and unnecessary costs.
Kundra announced plans last week to close more than 100 of the centers by the end of this year, with a goal of closing at least 800 by 2015.
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