Cisco CEO Robbins On Trump's Charlottesville Message, CEOs Leaving Advisory Councils And Increasing Cisco's 'Pace Of Innovation'

Robbins On Trump

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins spoke with CNBC on Thursday about why CEOs left President Donald Trump's business advisory boards and the opportunity to "unite" the country that was missed. Robbins met with President Trump in December alongside some of the world's top technology leaders for a roundtable discussion around driving business in the United States.

Robbins didn't shy away from answering questions regarding the controversy surrounding the White House as well as Cisco's fourth fiscal quarter earnings report on Wednesday which saw declines in many of the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant's core market segments. The following is excerpts from Robbins interview today on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

'It's Not Going To Serve Us Well'

Regarding President Trump's handling of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., Robbins said the President didn't address the incident effectively.

"What happened over the weekend brought to a head an issue that the country needed, you know, uniting words. We needed words that were going to bring the country together around what happened this weekend. I don't think we got those words," said Robbins. "I think that's what we need to focus on, is how do we bring the country together right now because we're focused too much on the things that divide us and it's not going to serve us well on any point as we move forward."

Cisco Denounces White Supremacists

Robbins said it is "incomprehensible" that America in 2017 needs to have conversations around denouncing racism and discrimination. "[Cisco] denounces racism, discrimination, neo-Nazism, white supremacy," said Robbins.

Drive Job Growth

Cisco's CEO said he wasn't speaking negatively about President Trump's administration, but "just speaking about what needs to be done."

"As we look at what's going on in our country today, we need to drive job growth, we need to drive GDP growth ... We need tax reform," said Robbins. "This country needs to focus on the things that actually unite us and have united us from the beginning and have made this country great and stop focusing every day on the things we disagree on."

Trump's Business Advisory Councils

President Trump formed two business advisory councils this year: the Strategic and Policy Forum; and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. Both were elite groups stocked with CEOs and business leaders that would advise the president on economic issues. Several CEOs left the groups in the past week, citing President Trump's inadequate and divisive response to the Charlottesville tragedy. Both groups were disbanded this week. Robbins said he spoke with many of the CEOs while they were on the councils.

"Every one of these CEOs has to make a personal decision based on their company, their own conscience and what they believe … and I think that's what all of them have done," Robbins said.

Federal Space

Robbins said the government's inability to set a budget has created some challenges for Cisco in the federal market.

"As we talked about our federal business in Q3 with a continuing [budget] resolution not being clear, it had created some challenges for us. We saw later in our quarter in Q4 after those budgets became more clear, we saw some improvements, and now we got to get through the next 90 days and the next budget time table," said Robbins. "We're very confident in our ability to bring value to those [federal] customers and I think they feel the same way."

Software And Subscriptions

Robbins touted Cisco's momentum during its fourth fiscal quarter around software and subscriptions.

"Our deferred revenue that's attributed to software and subscriptions grew 50 percent [in Q4]; it's now sitting at $5 billion," said Robbins. "We've gone from $4 billion to $5 billion in two quarters. We also had the first quarter where $1 billion of our product revenue came from recurring offers – that particular portion grew 40 percent year-over-year."

Innovation Engine

Since becoming CEO of Cisco more than two years ago, Robbins said the innovation engine at the networking giant is just getting underway.

"What you saw in June was this beginning of a cycle of innovation that we're going to bring forward when we launch this new era of networking that we call intent networking that was incredibly well received by the analysts, by our customers, our partners, our employees – there's an excitement about that. And you're going to see that continue over the next few years. This was the beginning of that," said Robbins.