Hooton in Defence role

In the week terrorists attacked America, the New Zealand Defence Force appointed its first information chief.

In the week terrorists attacked America, the New Zealand Defence Force appointed its first information chief.

Former Countrywide Bank CIO Ron Hooton takes up the post, shouldering the task of restructuring the NZDF’s information services to give it “greater governance over its increasingly complex and rapidly advancing information environment”. His brief also includes providing the NZDF with “a new strategic direction and planning capability”.

Hooton, 44, has worked in IT since 1973, for companies as diverse as Databank, bought by EDS 10 years ago, the National Provident Fund, Telecom, Western Bay Health in Tauranga and eventually Countrywide Bank. He was made redundant from the bank in 1998 when UK-based Lloyds Bank merged Countrywide with National Bank and its information and systems chief, Jonathan Macleod, got the top job.

Since then Hooton has done consultancy work on projects such as customer management systems for Southern Cross, outsourcing to Unisys for Clear, business strategy for the Christian Children’s Fund and merging the IT systems of two Cook Islands banks.

Hooton says he brings “a great deal of leadership” to the two-year contracted role, and is “excited” at the thought of dealing with defence’s “very pervasive” information systems. The father of seven-year-old twin boys is also glad to return to Wellington after five years in Auckland.

“I join at an interesting time. We have interaction with the US and Australia but current events should not impact on [my role],” he says, referring to the World Trade Center attack.

While the Army, Navy and Air Forces face ongoing political controversies, the 15,000 strong NZDF is looking to create a new joint information system. This will involve planning and implementing a merger of the Defence Computing Services Bureau (DCSB) in Porirua with the Defence Communications Unit (DCU) at the NZDF’s Wellington headquarters. Defence is also looking to outsource elements of its information infrastructure, such as the WAN, voice network and other services, such as mobile phones.

Hooton says it will take at least three months to see what restructuring and merging of systems takes place.

The NZDF had planned to employ Hooton in July, but had to wait until he had finished merging the IT systems of the Cook Island development and savings banks.

“It involved a year’s work of arranging suppliers, tenders, designing networks. After the merger, we ran recovery tests for them, checking the processes. I would go once a month to the Cook Islands for a couple of weeks. It was not a bad way to spend the winter.”

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