President Donald Trump has created a new White House office dedicated to applying business practices to government operations, to be headed up by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
The new Office of American Innovation, codified in a presidential memorandum, is described internally as a sort of “SWAT team” of consultants who bring business practices into government, according to The Washington Post. Its mission is to “improve government operations and services, improve the quality of life for Americans now and in the future and spur job creation,” the memorandum stated—including by fixing problems at the Veterans Affairs Department and modernizing federal IT.
That group will make policy recommendations directly to the president and publish periodic reports about the “information, ideas and experiences from other parts of government, from the private sector and from other thought leaders and experts outside of the federal government,” the memorandum said.
It’s currently unclear who will officially be participating in that effort. The Post, which first reported on the office, wrote Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff would be among the advisers from prominent tech businesses, but he subsequently told Politico that “I have no role with them. ... I think there might have been some confusion about that, but I’m not involved with them at all.”
Spokespeople for the Gates Foundation and Tesla had no comment about whether Microsoft Founder Bill Gates or Tesla CEO Elon Musk would participate, according to Politico; Apple spokespeople also didn’t respond to requests confirming the participation of Apple CEO Tim Cook. The Post had noted the Office of American Innovation was working with all four.
Here's who is likely staffing the Office of American Innovation, based on the presidential memorandum, which listed participants by their titles, and reporting from Politico:
- Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president: Kushner, married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, has been credited with creating a data hub for Trump's presidential campaign used for fundraising and targeted messaging, Forbes reported. Since joining the White House, Kushner has expressed support for pre-existing federal technology consulting programs including 18F and the U.S. Digital Service.
- Josh Raffel, communications: The Hollywood Reporter writes Kushner hired Raffel, a public relations executive for Blumhouse Productions, to run communications for the Office of American Innovation. That company, specializing in the horror genre, produced films including "Paranormal Activity" and "Get Out."
- Reince Priebus, assistant to the president and chief of staff: Formerly chairman of the Republican National Committee, Priebus has been involved in Trump's other technology-related efforts, including organizing a summit with some of Silicon Valley's most prominent executives such as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
- Stephen Miller, senior adviser to the president for policy: Miller, formerly an aide for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has advocated rolling back the H-1B visa program that allows American businesses to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs, according to Reuters. Currently, visas are chosen at random via a lottery, but Miller has proposed eliminating that step and prioritizing the applications for higher-paying jobs, potentially to reserve more lower-level jobs for American applicants.
- Gary Cohn, assistant to the president for economic policy: The former Goldman Sachs president has advocated for loosening financial regulations.
- Andrew Bremberg, assistant to the president for domestic policy: A LinkedIn search shows Bremberg was previously a policy adviser and counsel on nominations for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and chief of staff within the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Public Health.
- Chris Liddell, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives: The New Zealand-born executive previously served as the chief financial officer at both Microsoft and General Motors; in a statement announcing his appointment, Trump noted Liddell's experience with "large, complex companies in the private sector" could help effect "systemwide improvement to the performance of the government."
- Reed Cordish, assistant to the president for intergovernmental and technology initiatives: The Baltimore real estate developer and partner at the Cordish Companies has footholds in the casino, hotel and mall industries, including the Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover. He has met with federal tech leaders including Rob Cook, the head of the Technology Transformation Service that houses 18F, and has expressed support for that group as well as for USDS. Early drafts of a still-awaited cybersecurity executive order suggest Cordish may also be responsible for ensuring federal agency heads are held accountable for internal cybersecurity issues.
- Dina Powell, senior counselor to the president for economic initiatives: The Egyptian-born counselor, formerly a managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs, also served as president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, that company's philanthropic arm. In addition to her role in shaping economic initiatives, the Trump administration has also named her deputy national security adviser for strategy, The New York Times reported. Powell was previously assistant secretary of education and cultural affairs under George W. Bush.
- Hope Hicks, assistant to the president for strategic communications: Trump's campaign spokesperson, a 28-year-old with no prior political experience, was selected to handle press relations after working for the Trump Organization.
- Josh Pitcock, assistant to the president and chief of staff to the vice president: Pitcock was formerly an aide to Mike Pence when he served in the House of Representatives and was a policy adviser to the former Indiana governor during the presidential campaign, according to Politico.
- Robert Porter, assistant to the president and staff secretary: Porter was formerly chief of staff to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.