Ex-White House CIO: Obama's first 40 days were a tech mess

E-mail was down nearly a quarter of the time--but that was just one of myriad problems for a White House burdened by antiquated technology.

Charles Cooper
Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
2 min read
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. E-mail may be flaky but at least the phones still work. White House

Unfortunately, we usually have to wait until after someone's ready to ring the register for a final time before they're willing to dish on what things are really like. So it was recently with James Whittaker upon leaving Google, as well as with Greg Smith, who published a tell-all about Goldman Sachs in today's New York Times.

In an interview with Computerworld he offers up a couple of revealing tidbits about the sad state of technical unpreparedness at the highest office of the most technologically advanced nation on the planet.

  • During Barack Obama's first 40 days in office, the White House e-mail system was down 23 percent of the time. (Maybe that explains why my e-mail requests to the president went unanswered.)
  • More than 80 percent of the president's staff's technology was out of date.
  • Many desktops still had floppy disk drives.
  • In February 2011, the White House network suffered a nine-hour outage. (Colangelo was forced to fax--yes, fax--updates on the situation to President Obama.)

All in all, Colangelo told his interviewer, "it was just a mind-blowing experience."


Of course, this was nearly four years ago. Since then, Colangelo hastens to note, a modernization program has changed things for the better.

Update at 3:25 p.m. to correct that Colangelo is not planning to leave the job anytime soon. "[I am] not on my last lap," he told CNET this afternoon. "As I told the audience on Monday, I am not going anywhere. I have the best job and work for the best person in the world."