NZ top defence scientist accused of telling “big hairy lies” – September 10, 2010
New Zealand’s defence establishment has been rocked, not by the massive earthquake that recently hit the country, but by accusations that its chief scientist is not, as he had claimed, an Olympic bobsledder, a special forces soldier, or an ex-British spook.
Hey, all my life I have been so naive that I believed that, to qualify as a “chief scientist” one must be a scientist. Never mind bobsledding. Never mind killing Afghans or other people a long way from Britain in the special forces. Never mind spying.
However, it seems that in
the killing industry … err… in “defence” a scientist does not have to be a scientist.
For five years, British-born Steven Wilce ran the country’s Defence Technology Agency, which advised the government on weapon’s systems and new technologies. His job also made him the top scientific official in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), and had high-level security clearances.
Wilce made himself sound like the man for the job. He claimed to be a reservist in the British Special forces and to have worked for MI-5 and MI-6. He told colleagues he had helped design the inertial guidance system for Britain’s Polaris submarine-launched nuclear missile (though that would have made him pretty old, given it was designed in the 1950s).
He was also quite the athlete, claiming to have competed on the British Olympic bobsled team in the 1980s, against the famous Jamaican “cool runnings” team. In New Zealand, Wilce has held a number of executive management roles, though he never seemed to hold a job for long.
An investigation by New Zealand’s 60 minutes reveals why: Almost everything Wilce claimed about life before New Zealand wasn’t true, including his bobsledding prowess. According to many former Kiwi colleagues, he mismanaged many of the companies he was hired to run. “I found this fellow was telling me massive porkies,” business consultant Steve Saunders told the programme.
The NZDF has now opened an investigation into how Wilce got the job. The former top scientist has meanwhile resigned from his post, according to reports.
From 3News in New Zealand:
Despite an internal complaint about his suitability, Wilce was still sent on an overseas course that cost the taxpayer over $250,000.