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The Reluctant CIO

The Reluctant CIO

Profile: Patrick Hannan. CIO, Defence Department

There can't be another CIO in Australia with as many reasons as Patrick Hannan to lie awake nights fretting about the intangibles and complexities of his post.

As Defence Department CIO overseeing a hugely ambitious agenda, Hannan undoubtedly has the toughest job of any information professional in the country. And that's a bit rough, because he didn't ask for it; indeed, he accepted the position only with extreme reluctance, and admits he finds the new position "daunting".

On the other hand, most defence work is daunting, he says - just look at Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove and his troops in East Timor. And if they can face their trials with mettle, this civilian clearly has no intention of demeaning the courage of the enlisted officers and troops around him by shirking his own difficult brief. Since accepting the invitation of Defence Department Secretary Allan Hawke to assume the role last August, Hannan has quietly thrown himself into the job of governing and coordinating arrangements for the development, operation and management of the Defence information environment.

While he is not actually losing sleep over the hugely complex, conceptually difficult issues now occupying his days, he puts some troubled nights down to exhaustion as much as anything else. Because whatever his personal feelings about the job, Hannan knows the decisions he takes now, in a defence world evolving perhaps faster than ever before, could have impossible-to-foresee consequences at the sharp end of future battlefields where Australian lives and security may well be at stake.

"We're always about a superiority, we're always about having a force that has a unique difference in capacity, and that's largely in the intellect of our forces," he says. "Everyone will attest, both in an operational and tactical sense, that our forces are world eminent; they are very, very good. How do you give them the tools that will enable them to excel?"

Answering that question involves trying to achieve a coherent planning arrangement across the entire Defence Department covering intelligence, surveillance capabilities, communications, information warfare, command, headquarters, systems management and logistics business systems. It is deeply cerebral work. In defence the CIO role is most definitely not about "doing", Hannan says. Rather it is about conceptualising and strategising. In that sense it is a far cry from his former role, which was effectively a CTO (chief technology officer) position, where he was an activist dealing with tangibles and directly able to measure the results of his work.

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