Michael Zeitfuss, Harris Corp.

A lanky, carefully spoken engineer, Zeitfusshad long been involved in national efforts like the space program,intercontinental ballistic missiles and intelligence gathering. But hedid more than just bring that engineering expertise to the job—he alsobrought a thorough knowledge of Harris itself, where he has workedsince 1976.

“I really understand the company and itscapabilities, perhaps more than most people,” Zeitfuss reflected. Thatknowledge fit in well with Chief Executive Officer Howard Lance’sdetermination to use the entire company’s capabilities in the serviceof homeland security, rather than assign responsibility to a singledivision.

Now, Zeitfuss can bring to bear the entire110-year legacy of Harris’ work in communications, networking systemsand information processing, as well as the company’s work in themilitary and civil spheres, when he pursues a program award or acustomer’s objective.

Program experience

Harris, a company with $2.5 billion inrevenues, has long been involved in homeland security—even before someprograms received the “homeland security” title. The company providedthe Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Centerwith its 2000 database upgrade, a system capable of handling 4 milliontransactions a day from national, local and internationallaw-enforcement agencies. It has provided system engineering andtechnical support to the Defense Information Systems Agency forhigh-performance, highly secure networks. Harris upgraded the CensusBureau’s master address file and topographical databases for the 2010census. It is providing the National Geospatial Intelligence Agencywith 3D models of US urban areas that will be used by emergency andhomeland security users. And it is upgrading the Federal AviationAdministration’s national communications network.

Currently, Harris is pursuing a contract forthe integrated wireless network (IWN), the next major procurement ofthe departments of Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security. IWN willtie together 80,000 first responders at an estimated 2,500 sites. Thecontract carries an estimated value of $10 billion once all options areexercised.

For all this experience, Zeitfuss findsoperating in the homeland security market a challenge. Homelandsecurity is still new and evolving, as is the Department of HomelandSecurity (DHS) as it tries to integrate its 22 agencies.

“The dynamics of the market environment areclearly difficult for all of us to deal with. Procurements areidentified and the identification, the allocation of resources, all ofthat takes place, and then there are changes that modify the nature ofthe procurement,” Zeitfuss observed.

That fluidity—based on changing conditionsand requirements—results in procurements that are halted orfundamentally altered, legislative cycles that are out of step withprocurement cycles and new and sudden technical requirements. To besuccessful in such an environment, “You have to be incredibly nimbleand flexible in responding and allocating and addressing the market,because it is very dynamic,” he said.

However, Zeitfuss pointed out, flexibility and responsiveness have always been a Harris strong point.

He also emphasized that, while Harris is notoften considered a lead system integrator for platform projects likeaircraft, it is a lead subsystem integrator when it comes tocommunications, networking and information processing. When it comes tonon-platform competitions — like IWN — it can hold its own andsuccessfully compete with the largest competitors. Furthermore, Harrishas considerable experience in starting small and scaling up, anability that is particularly useful in serving government customers.


On Sept. 11, 2001, Zeitfuss heard about thecrash of the first airliner into the World Trade Center in a phone callfrom his wife. He was on the phone with her when she described thesecond crash.

Zeitfuss and the rest of Harris didn’thesitate. They loaded vans with key personnel and equipment that coulddetect and locate cell phone transmissions and raced up the coast toNew York and Washington, DC. They didn’t wait for permission or ordersor contracts.

It was the kind of responsiveness thatHarris—and Zeitfuss—are determined to continue to bring to the criticalfield of homeland security. HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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