Email breakdowns plagued White House during Obama's first 40 days in office

The White House's email was down 23 percent of the time in President Obama's first 40 days in office, according to a new interview. 

Aging information technology left the White House email down repeatedly, according to Brook Colangelo, the White House's chief information officer.

In an interview with Computerworld published Tuesday, Colangelo said he and his staff put in 80-hour weeks "if not more" to update the White House's technology. 


Colangelo estimated that 82 percent of the White House's technology had reached the end of its life when Obama entered the office. 

Just six days into the Obama presidency, the email servers went down for 21 hours.

"In my professional career, there has not been a worse day since or ever," Colangelo said.

Over the next month, the email crashed another three or four times, he said.

In February 2011, Colangelo said he even had to fax updates to the president while he was on the road.

Administration officials have previously complained that outdated government technology has made government less efficient. 

Former Obama budget director Peter Orszag in 2010 said federal workers often have better computers at home than on the job.

“Twenty years ago, people who came to work in the federal government had better technology at work than at home,” Orszag said in 2010 comments before a group of CEOs meeting with Obama. “Now that’s no longer the case.

“The American people deserve better service from their government and better return for their tax dollars,” he said. 

Rahm Emmanuel, when he was White House chief of staff, had a desktop computer that still had a floppy disk drive, Colangelo said.

As the White House chief information officer, Colangelo is responsible for providing unclassified technology services to White House agencies including the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Colangelo said to prevent more email outages, he launched a data recovery center that includes backup email servers. He also helped develop a Web-based portal so that White House aides can now access their email accounts from home.

The feature proved useful during the snowstorms in February 2010. Colangelo said 60 percent of the White House staff were online the entire week despite several feet of snow blocking the roads.

Colangelo said the Obama administration has tripled Internet speeds for White House staff and cut in half the number of devices at the end of their life.