New Zealand military embarrassed by scientist's fake resume

28th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

New Zealand's military chief admitted Thursday the defence force was "seriously embarrassed" after a top scientist who made wild claims about his background was granted high security clearance.

The head of the Defence Technology Agency Stephen Wilce quit last month after it it was revealed he falsely claimed he was an ex-Marine combat veteran and an Olympic bobsledder who raced against Jamaica's "Cool Runnings" team.

A government inquiry released Thursday found the recruiting process that led to Wilce's appointment was "flawed in significant respects", prompting moves to tighten procedures.

"Some dumb decisions were made," Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae told reporters.

British-born Wilce resigned from the agency, which provides technology support to New Zealand's military, after commercial broadcaster TV3 alleged he padded his resume and made a string of fanciful claims about his past.

They included being a combat veteran and a member of Britain's bobsleigh team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, where he supposedly competed against the Jamaican team which inspired the 1993 film "Cool Runnings".

"I know them all," Wilce said in footage filmed by an undercover reporter. "I know all the Jamaican guys... mad, absolute nutters."

TV3's "60 Minutes" reported that no record existed of Wilce serving in Britain's Royal Marines or having combat experience and that no one on the 1988 British bobsleigh team had heard of him.

Previous employers and colleagues told the programme Wilce had claimed he designed guidance systems for Britain's Polaris nuclear missiles, a defunct system launched 50 years ago during the Cold War.

Wilce headed 80 staff at the Defence Technology Agency for five years.

Mateparae said that while screening procedures had proved inadequate, most of the failings lay with Wilce.

"He represented his work history, military career, achievements, academic qualifications and activities in other fields in a way that was neither honest nor complete.

"Not only have his actions damaged his reputation, they have damaged the morale of those he led at the Defence Technology Agency, and they have damaged the reputation of the New Zealand Defence Force."

Mateparae said the report, which found that Wilce had not posed a threat to national security, had been passed to police for further action if warranted.

© 2010 AFP

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