On Friday 26 October, the Secretary of Defence, Nick Warner, and Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, announced that Mr Greg Farr had been appointed as Chief Information Officer. Mr Farr will commence in this challenging new role in late November.
Mr Farr's current appointment as a Second Commissioner in the Australian Taxation Office, is the equivalent of a Deputy Secretary. At the ATO, Mr Farr had operational responsibility for the business systems of ATO. In effect, all significant information technology and communications issues were decided by Mr Farr, despite having direct reports of a Chief Information Officer and a Chief Technology Officer.
Mr Farr's career has been exclusively with the ATO, where he has worked his way up through various operational roles, including Deputy Commissioner of Taxation (Mount Gravatt) in the early 1990s.
The ATO has an excellent track record with its business systems, going back decades. In the last 20 years, it has been through two major modernisation processes, managed a major outsourcing contract, and implemented major legislative changes such as the Tax File Number legislation, the Goods and Services Tax legislation, and the Superannuation Guarantee legislation.
Its success with this heavy schedule of change has come from effective team work by key decision makers from the Commissioner down. In addition, the ATO has a culture of consultative processes put in place by then Commissioner Trevor Boucher in the 1980s, and carried forward to the present. Its senior management has demonstrated a shared understanding of what is required.
Given the findings of the Defence Management Review, Mr Farr is walking into a significantly more challenging and difficult role than the one he is leaving at the ATO. "The appointment of a new Chief Information Officer is an important step forward for Defence. It meets a key recommendation of the Defence Management Review to give a heightened priority to reform of our business systems. We are delighted to welcome Mr Farr to the Defence Organisation and look forward to working with him on what is an increasingly vital part of our activities including in support of ADF operations," said the Secretary of Defence, Nick Warner.
The next question of course, is who will replace Greg Farr at the ATO, as it moves into its market testing phase for its infrastructure outsourcing requirements. The ATO will conduct an industry briefing for its outsourcing program in Canberra on Wednesday.