Top Defence official faces probe over CV claims

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Stephen Wilce is the Defence Force's chief scientist and director of the Defence Technology Agency. Photo / Supplied
Stephen Wilce is the Defence Force's chief scientist and director of the Defence Technology Agency. Photo / Supplied

One of the country's top Defence officials is under investigation after it was alleged he told "massive porkies" - including that he was an Olympian and a Royal Marine - and embellished his CV.

Stephen Wilce is the chief Defence scientist and director of the Defence Technology Agency (DTA).

TV3's 60 Minutes programme last night claimed many of Mr Wilce's qualifications and stated past achievements were false.

Those included that he was a British Royal Marine and that he competed in the British Olympic bobsleigh team in the 1980s alongside the Jamaican team that inspired the film Cool Runnings.

"I know them all," Mr Wilce said while being secretly filmed. "I know all the Jamaican guys ... mad, absolute nutters."

Mr Wilce's job means he holds the highest levels of security clearance.

The DTA provides advice to the military on technology and scientific matters, such as electronic surveillance and defence systems for Navy ships. It also offers classified advice to the Government on threats to Air Force aircraft in Afghanistan.

Mr Wilce's profile on the Defence Force website describes him as having "an extensive background in Defence sciences". It says his experience includes supercomputing, telescope systems and weapons research.

It adds that Mr Wilce says that "despite this pure technology environment, he has focused in more recent years on the science of human performance, particularly in relation to critical decision-making in the face of overwhelming information overload, and he expects this will come through in his new role".

But several ex-employers and people who had interviewed Mr Wilce for roles in the past say his CV is littered with false claims.

In one company, he was nicknamed "Walter Mitty" - a fictional character known as a dreamer.

Business consultant Steven Saunders told 60 Minutes that while interviewing Mr Wilce for a top position at his company in the early 1990s he realised that he was being misled - "from the outset".

"Very quickly ... I found this fellow was telling me massive porkies," Mr Saunders said.

Mr Wilce told him of his involvement with the British military and his sporting achievements - including being in the British Olympic swimming team and its bobsleigh team.

Mr Saunders then sought to look into Mr Wilce's background, to confirm his achievements.

"No one had heard of him."

The TV item said that before rising to his current position, where he leads 80 people, Mr Wilce had been the chief executive of a small Australian housing firm in charge of about 10 people.

His employees there referred to him as a "rocket scientist" because of what he had told them about his past, the programme reported. A Kiwi engineer and former DTA scientist who reported to Mr Wilce also spoke of his claims.

"[Mr Wilce] claimed he had designed the guidance system for the Polaris missile." The Polaris missile was a US submarine nuclear missile designed in the 1950s.

"It was fanciful stuff."

Mr Wilce said he had worked for MI5 and MI6, the British secret services, the programme reported.

A Defence Force spokesman last night confirmed an investigation was under way after the allegations.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp is aware of the investigation and last night said: "[The Defence Force] will take any appropriate action after the investigation is completed."

- additional reporting NZPA

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 23 Jul 2014 07:17:38 Processing Time: 1523ms