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Updated: Greg Farr to finish up as Defence CIO

by Paris Cowan •
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The Department of Defence has begun advertising for candidates for the role of Chief Information Officer, the position currently occupied by Greg Farr.

Update: A spokesperson has confirmed that Farr's contract will end in November 2012, and that Defence will not be renewing it.

"He is planning on finishing the contract, will take a break and then will look at opportunities next year," she said.

Farr joined Defence as CIO in November 2007, leaving his previous role as Second Commissioner at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), where he had commenced his public service career.

His replacement will take over the running of the third largest ICT network in Australia, according to the Department’s website.

Defence says it is looking for “high calibre candidates” with experience in major IT transformations to fill the role.

“The Department of Defence CIO is one of the largest and arguably the most complex ICT role in Australia and the region,” says the advertisement.

“To be considered for this role, applicants must have a track record of leading a significant and complex business or government technology related organisation through innovative change and reform,” it says.

The new CIO will also pick up responsibility for the Defence ICT Strategic Reform Program (SRP), commenced by Farr, which aims to save $1.9 billion in technology expenditure over ten years to 2019 by:

  • Consolidating 200 data centres to less than ten under the Centralised Processing initiative;
  • Creating a single enterprise architecture;
  • Standardising the Defence ICT environment; and
  • Reviewing the effectiveness of the two pass process for ICT projects.

While Farr is reported to have made significant headway in this field, the new CIO will also face the challenge of achieving visibility of ICT assets and expenditure across the Department.

“Defence's Information and Communications Technology environment is fragmented with less than half of the $1.2 billion spent visible to the Chief Information Officer, resulting in inefficiencies in delivery,” said the 2009 Strategic Reform Program overview.

Also on the horizon is the finalisation of contract negotiations for two major tranches of ICT procurement reform related to the SRP, the Centralised Processing bundle and the Terrestrial Communications bundle.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Lockheed Martin are currently in the running to be awarded the Centralised Processing contract to consolidate more than 280 Defence data centres.

Telstra and Optus are the shortlisted tenderers for the Terrestrial Communications contract, with the successful applicant due to be announced sometime towards the end of 2012.

The Defence CIO role is one of the few Federal Government IT positions at the Deputy Secretary level, with most now sitting a tier below (i.e. at the First Assistant Secretary level) in the Tier 2 agencies, and often at a Branch Head level (Assistant Secretary) or even Executive Officer level in the smaller agencies.

There are only three CIO roles at the Deputy Secretary level across the Federal Government.  They are the Australian Government CIO role, held by Ann Steward, the CIO role at the Department of Human Services (DHS) held by Gary Sterrenberg, and the CIO role at Defence.  The advertised Defence role therefore represents a career pinnacle position for CIOs in Canberra, and could be expected to attract a number of applications from candidates currently holding IT roles at the First Assistant Secretary level.

Speculation will be rife as to who is likely to be in the candidate field.  CIO roles are one of the few that candidates external to government contest.  The Australian Taxation Office’s Bill Gibson came from Qantas. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s Joe Attanasio and DHS’s Garry Sterrenberg both came from ANZ Bank.

Related Articles:

Interview: Defence CIO Greg Farr on new systems integrator panel

Defence restructures CIOG

Challenges for New Defence CIO

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