When Barack Obama’s staff first came to the White House seven years ago, they reportedly complained about how the United States’ first house is stuck in the past when it comes to technology. With that in mind, Obama vowed to completely overhaul the technology infrastructure of the White House, bringing it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. As Obama’s second term as president comes to an end, work on overhauling the White House’s technology infrastructure for the next president is said to be complete.
According to the New York Times, Obama administration staffers have been forced to make do with technology that belongs in 1985. Some of the most stunning oversights of technology within the White House include desktop computers from the previous decade, black and white printers and BlackBerry smartphones, coupled with weak wireless internet connection.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) April 4, 2016
The White House is designed to be a building at the center of America’s core administration, but for too long it’s had a technology infrastructure that lags far behind anything offered by the majority of corporations. However, according to Gizmodo, there’s a reason for that. Making changes to the technological infrastructure of the White House is no easy task, that’s because the building is actually overseen by four different bodies; the National Security Council, the Executive Office of the President, the Secret Service and the White House Communications Agency. With that in mind, any changes must be agreed by each of those four bodies before they can be implemented within the White House.
One particularly staggering shortfall in the White House’s infrastructure is the president’s office in the air; Air Force One. According to deputy chief of staff for operations at the White House, Anita Decker Breckenridge, Air Force One relies on emails being sent over an air-to-ground internet connection, which works at a speed that you typically expect from a dial-up modem used in the 90s. When talking about her plans to upgrade Air Force One to broadband speeds, she said “This is the Oval Office in the sky. Talk about a network that didn’t work.”
Overhauling the White House’s technology infrastructure was a task designated to David Recordon, who had previously been responsible for designing Facebook’s office technology. His team first started by removing and replacing the old cable structure of the White House. Following that, they replaced archaic computers still being used in the building and installed the first new phone system that the White House had seen since the Clinton administration. On top of this, aides now began to use iPhones for communication on the go.
Thanks to a new WiFi system, communication is now an awful lot quicker within the White House. Plus, Recordon also implemented a web-based visitor system, meaning that visitors within the White House can now be admitted and tracked much easier and more securely than ever before.
That being said, Obama isn’t the first president to upgrade essential aspects of the White House’s technology infrastructure. It’s well known that George W. Bush’s administration completely overhauled the Situation Room, modernizing communication gear for the first time since Kennedy’s administration. The White House’s communications infrastructure is believed to have drastically failed during the events of September 11, 2001, which initially lead to the implementation of BlackBerries in the White House.
Anita Decker Breckenridge confirmed that no additional money had been requested for upgrading the White House’s technology infrastructure, with all developments being made with current funding. She said that she hoped the work they had done would mean that President Obama’s successor’s staff would be better equipped for the modern age. The work completes a two-year overhaul of the White House’s technology infrastructure.
[Photo by The White House/Getty Images]