"We are really going to try to push as hard as we can. You'd be blown away by some of the statistics," Liddell said. "We have something like 6,000 data centers across the government. We spend $86 billion a year, and that probably understates the figure, on IT. ... Those are orders of magnitude higher than anything you would see in the private sector. So there's a massive economic opportunity here."
He also noted that moving more government services to the cloud could help with cybersecurity.
Technology executives from Apple, Amazon, Oracle and other American companies are expected to gather at the White House on Monday in a summit aimed at modernizing the government. Liddell, who helped steer Microsoft through a difficult transition during the financial crisis as the company's chief financial officer, said about 90 percent of those invited will be in attendance, a higher turnout than average.
Ultimately, the government, not the private sector, will be responsible for delivering on the recommendations that come out of Monday's summit, Liddell said. But many of the companies, such as Amazon, are considered top cloud services providers.
"We have 3.5 trillion dollars of market value arriving today," Liddell said. "Having those people and the power of their ideas — and the power of, hopefully, some of their people over the next few months and years — we think we can really accelerate what we're doing."
Liddell said part of the goal at the White House is to inspire a dedicated "government tech" industry in the private sector.
"We're 10 to 20 years behind, so we're not going to solve this today," he said.