Bill Gattle on Evolving Harris SIS

Evolving Harris’ Space and Intelligence Business

An Interview with Bill Gattle, President, Harris Corporation Space and Intelligence Systems
Mar 20, 2017

Harris’ Space and Intelligence Systems segment was formed when Harris Corporation acquired Exelis in 2015. Segment President Bill Gattle discusses the drivers and impacts of this business as it continues to evolve.

What are the primary drivers contributing to the evolution of Harris’ Space and Intelligence Systems (SIS) today?

Gattle:   The largest part of our business still comes from the U.S. government, for whom the world is presenting new challenges. Adversaries can come from anywhere, are mobile, and adapt quickly. They pose threats both on the ground and in space. As a result, our defense and intelligence community customers need greater situational awareness to respond to threats faster, and they need the information in an easily accessible, useful form. They also need to replace aging space technology with intelligent systems that are more responsive, cost effective, and less reliant on human operators. We are advancing smallsat technology, for example, and in two to three years, we will have it in a form we believe will be relevant for U.S. government challenges.

Harris Corporation’s acquisition of Exelis in May 2015 was a major milestone in Harris’ 120-year history. What has been the impact of that change on your business?

Gattle:  It almost doubled Harris’ size, making us one of the largest defense contractors and allowing us the ability to scale up to meet our customers’ needs. It provided us with amazing technology and expertise to complement what Harris already had. For example, now we are arguably the most diverse and capable sensor house in the industry. That means we have an extraordinary ability to fly on practically any platform, acquire high-resolution geospatial imagery, process it, analyze and provide it in a form that everyone from farmers to Special Operations can use. Our satellite payloads allow us to, among other things, track all the commercial aircraft and oceangoing vessels in the world, send the GPS signal on which millions of people and billions of dollars in commerce depend, and capture weather images for forecasts that mean the difference between life and death. Our space and ground-based optics look into the farthest reaches of space, and when our antennas on satellites unfurl after the satellite is in orbit, millions of people can communicate more easily.

What else contributes to how you think about next steps for the Harris Space and Intelligence business?

Gattle: Global connectivity to the internet has drastically transformed how we do almost everything. I’ve seen projections that indicate there will be as many as 100 billion connections by 2025. How we use and protect this connectivity has to be at the forefront of our minds when it comes to solving our customers’ problems. The space industry is undergoing its own transformation as the demand for more affordable access to “the high frontier” is driving commercial entrepreneurs to invest their own money into new types of launch vehicles and prompting satellite owners to host more than just their primary mission payloads on their buses. The next wave of change will be in the use of small satellites—considered a novelty 10 years ago—and affordable payloads that rideshare on them.

Why do customers want to work with Harris?

Gattle: We have some very clear technology discriminators in the areas of remote sensing, ground systems and processing, and data analysis. We are also able to align how we work with how our customers want to buy—very important when our customers have so many needs. But I think it is our people who really make the difference. These knowledgeable scientists, engineers, and mission experts work side by side with our customers day in and day out with a “mission first” focus and a sensitivity to mission affordability.


As published in the Harris Space and Intelligence Systems publication, Insights for a Better World, Ensuring Superiority in Space.