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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2021

Engineers With Both Government, Private Sector Experience Make 'Most Impact'

By C. Todd Lopez DOD News

During Engineers Week, the Defense Department is highlighting its efforts to develop a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce and to increase understanding of and interest in engineering and technology.

Engineers who have experience in both the public and private sector bring a lot of value to their employers, said the principal director for fully networked command, control and communications within the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

An illustration depicting a soldier kneeling in the grass and operating electronic equipment.
Signal Support Graphic
A signal support system specialist prepares the radio system used to allow soldiers and airmen to keep in constant communications with one another during a mission.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-001

"Both the DOD and commercial sector are great places to work with interesting projects that are building a bridge to the future," said Michael Zatman. "In my experience, people who have experienced both make the most impact in both. Spending time working in the DOD will reward you with stimulating challenges while serving our nation, and also seeding capabilities that will transition back to the commercial sector and lead to a better world for all."

Engineers are the focus of the Defense Department during this year's National Engineers Week, which runs February 21-27. The importance of engineers and engineering was first recognized in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers. It's something the DOD has been observing as well for years now.

Zatman leads the department's efforts to attain fully networked command, control and communications, or FNC3.

An illustration showing a tank firing its cannon.
Tank Firing Graphic
An illustration with an M1 Abrams tank firing.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-002

"Command and control is an application, and we think of that as something that allows machines to exchange information, make decisions and then transport those decisions to each other in order to accomplish a goal," Zatman said. "The networking communications is the infrastructure that allows these different machines and these different applications to talk to each other."

The United States and its allies need FNC3 to be able to more reliably move increasing amounts of data and information across a growing collection of diverse platforms, Zatman said. Additionally, each of those platforms may be supporting multiple missions in a variety of environments, including those that are contested or benign, as well as environments that may also be congested.

While the department has many engineers now, it's looking for and needs many more, especially engineers interested in the areas that will support the furthering of the DOD's FNC3 efforts.

An illustration showing two helicopters hovering over an aircraft carrier at sea.
USS Nimitz Illustration
An illustration showing two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters conducting a vertical replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
Photo By: Graphic illustration by Regina Ali, DOD
VIRIN: 200910-D-ZZ999-003

"Being able to develop, and then field these technologies requires engineering expertise that the DOD needs to have internally since many of the environments that the DOD works in are unique to the Department of Defense, and different from those that are encountered in the commercial sector," Zatman said. "The DOD needs to have engineers who are actually familiar with the environments and the kinds of systems that the Department of Defense is working with, in order to often apply commercial ideas and commercial concepts in order to improve our own capabilities."

Young Americans who want to support the defense of the nation are encouraged to do so by pursuing an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Zatman said.

"Students interested in pursuing a career in this area typically have degrees in electrical engineering or computer science," he said. "However, most important is to have a strong analytical background. I have skilled colleagues with degrees in physics and other sciences, mathematics and even economics. The best engineers I know also have a breadth of experience gained from working in a variety of different areas."