By Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker March 26 at 10:00 PM
President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.
The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.
“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,” Trump said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”
In a White House riven at times by disorder and competing factions, the innovation office represents an expansion of Kushner’s already far-reaching influence. The 36-year-old former real estate and media executive will continue to wear many hats, driving foreign and domestic policy as well as decisions on presidential personnel. He also is a shadow diplomat, serving as Trump’s lead adviser on relations with China, Mexico, Canada and the Middle East.
The work of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon has drawn considerable attention, especially after his call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Bannon will have no formal role in the innovation office, which Trump advisers described as an incubator of sleek transformation as opposed to deconstruction.
The announcement of the new office comes at a humbling moment for the president, following Friday’s collapse of his first major legislative push — an overhaul of the health-care system, which Trump had championed as a candidate.
Kushner is positioning the new office as “an offensive team” — an aggressive, nonideological ideas factory capable of attracting top talent from both inside and outside of government, and serving as a conduit with the business, philanthropic and academic communities.
“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said Sunday in an interview in his West Wing office. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”
The innovation office has a particular focus on technology and data, and it is working with such titans as Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff and Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk. The group has already hosted sessions with more than 100 such leaders and government officials.
“There is a need to figure out what policies are adding friction to the system without accompanying it with significant benefits,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the investment firm Blackstone Group. “It’s easy for the private sector to at least see where the friction is, and to do that very quickly and succinctly.”
Some of the executives involved have criticized some of Trump’s policies, such as his travel ban, but said they are eager to help the administration address chronic problems.
“Obviously it has to be done with corresponding values and principles. We don’t agree on everything,” said Benioff, a Silicon Valley billionaire who raised money for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
But, Benioff added, “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 ambitions for what the new office can achieve are grand. At least to start, the team plans to focus its attention on reimagining Veterans Affairs; modernizing the technology and data infrastructure of every federal department and agency; remodeling workforce-training programs; and developing “transformative projects” under the banner of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, such as providing broadband Internet service to every American.
In some cases, the office could direct that government functions be privatized, or that existing contracts be awarded to new bidders.
The office will also focus on combating opioid abuse, a regular emphasis for Trump on the campaign trail. The president later this week plans to announce an official drug commission devoted to the problem that will be chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). He has been working informally on the issue for several weeks with Kushner, despite reported tension between the two.
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Susan has been an entrepreneur all of her adult life. She had a clothing company for 10 years, Weeds & Doilies, opened a hair salon in Newport Beach, produced a feature film, created an alternative content program with a national theatre chain and currently is the Executive Director of C.A.R.E. (Cannabis Awareness, Research & Events). As a serial entrepreneur, she has worn many hats including expertise in digital media, marketing, social media, start ups, advertising, business development, public policy, market research, film production and cannabis cultivation.