We sat down with Bill Huzar, the Facilities Security Officer at the St. Petersburg Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. As the Facilities Security Officer, Bill is tasked with the important role of making sure that the entire facility is secure at all points of entry, both in and out of the building. This role is crucial as it allows for the Hub to be a cleared facility with a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) that other authorized companies in the Hub can use for business. But Bill wears many hats at the Hub and has a background in mechanical engineering.
Learn more about Bill, his breadth of both engineering and compliance experience, and his unusual disdain for coffee and cheese (more for us!).
How did you find yourself in St. Pete?
I grew up in the Bronx, New York. My family moved here when I was 12, and after college, I moved back down to the Tampa Bay area. My first job was at TECO, or Tampa Electric Company. I lived in Tampa for a little while and then my next job was over at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus with the College of Marine Science. I’ve been here for almost 20 years now.
How did you get into this field? Tell us about your career path.
In college, I majored in mechanical engineering and received my Bachelor of Science. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but in school, I was good at math and loved to take things apart and put them back together. I also knew I wasn’t a writer and didn’t want to spend my entire time in college writing according to the Gordon rule.
TECO was my first job out of college, and it taught me so much—not only did you have to be incredibly careful at the power plant, but I got the chance to apply and experiment with the theories that I learned in school.
After TECO, I went to work for the USF Center of Ocean Technology in St. Pete. There, I began to design pressure vessels and electronic packaging to be used underwater for research. The vessels we designed would be able to withstand full ocean depth in some places.
Then, I landed at SRI International, the previous tenant of what is now the St. Petersburg Innovation District Maritime and Defense Technology Hub. SRI International primarily does research and development that is then patented and sold. They are most famous for their SIRI software that is used in all Apple devices, as well as the invention of the computer mouse. There, I developed a sampling apparatus patent that was used with an underwater mass spectrometer, which is an instrument that can detect gases in the water. The spectrometer breaks down the elements in the water after it pulls a sample out. Our team designed and developed a pressure vessel that housed the mass spectrometer and the apparatus that allowed these samples to be taken. This specific vessel could go 1500 meters, which is fairly shallow for the ocean. The average depth of the ocean is around 3000 meters.
While at SRI, I was also the Facilities Security Officer (FSO), which led me today to Pole Star Defense.
What is your role here at the St. Petersburg Maritime and Defense Hub? What does a Facilities Security Officer do in this type of building?
Here at the Hub, I am the FSO, or Facilities Security Officer for Pole Star Defense. It is my job to make sure that the program security specifications are met, ensure compliance with the government, and enforce company security policies so this building remains a secure facility. As the FSO, I am the first point of contact with the government to make sure all these parameters are enforced properly, for both the building and the contractors.
How did you get here from mechanical engineering?
Well, both are problem-solving roles. I also know this building better than most; as the mechanical engineer at SRI, I was often tagged in to fix things that broke in the building. I took an additional role of facilities engineer and the FSO, which dovetails onto the security side, especially when you need to make sure a SCIF is and continues to remain, secure. Now, my primary role is FSO, but I am helping with a few mechanical-related problems with the building.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Right now, I’m still working on getting the Hub set up and all systems working. I’m also working on getting the FCL for the Hub, or the facility clearance. We’re working with our sponsor on that piece. Since I’m the building FSO, I’ll also be working with other Hub tenants on clearance-related items as well. My main focus is to manage and control secure areas.
I usually check in with Alison every day to see if there is anything with the building I can help with. But, at the end of the day, our number one priority right now is to get that facility clearance. We can then move on to phase two of security protocols and compartmentalization for a higher level of security, both for the space and for the people who will be using it.
Can you talk a little bit about why this building is so unique?
The most unique thing, I think, about this building is the security feature and layout. There aren’t many buildings that are built specifically for this use, especially in Florida.
This building was originally built for SRI. SRI had three or four different types of areas because of the range of work and clients SRI had; labs, offices, water access, and a SCIF. It was also built around marine technology. It’s part of the reason why the building is here on the water. Additionally, SRI had a port security group working on radar systems AUV/ROV and needed roof/wharf access. Finally, we would sometimes be working on sensitive projects; hence, the need for a SCIF. When trying to sell this building to other companies, it was difficult, as there wasn’t another single company that encompassed all those different needs. And so, the thought was that we could bring in multiple companies to help best utilize the unique space here at the Hub.
For those that don’t know, how would you define a SCIF or secured area?
A SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility, is a room for sensitive communication that can be viewed and discussed to prevent spying. The most famous SCIF is the Situation Room. The government sets these regulations for the room. You must have a specific clearance level and need to enter one.
Not every SCIF is built the same, as some are grandfathered in when new rules are issued. Additionally, if there are different government agencies that have SCIFs, they may have slightly different regulations as well.
A facilities security officer is a little different from your background in mechanical engineering. Do you miss it at all?
Well, I’ve only been in this new role for six months (laughs). I’m still going to be doing a bit of engineering around the building, here and there. I may not be working on a specific project, but I expect to be involved in that world in some way. It’s exciting to be in this new role! There are definitely some similarities in terms of structure and protocol.
What is one thing that people should know about you?
I don’t like coffee or cheese. I know, weird (laughs). Also, I’m a Yankees fan and love baseball.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my kids. They work really hard at all the things they do, both in sports and in school. Being a parent is not easy, regardless of any situation that you’re in, but as a dad, you just try the best you can. And hopefully, when they get older, you’ve prepared them for the world and they’re ready. You just hope that they succeed on their own and that our guidance (me and my wife) was enough to set them up for the future. You know they’ll make mistakes, you just hope not too many mistakes.
What advice would you give someone entering the mechanical engineering field, as it’s been the majority of your career?
I would tell a new engineer to get a mentor. When you come out of school, you’re brand new, and regardless of how smart you were in college, you have zero real-world experience. In order to absorb that and step into the space, it helps to have a senior engineer you can bounce ideas off of to help you learn.
Engineering really requires a team effort to be successful. And you need a good team. Again, find a mentor that you can learn from and keep an open mind. Find someone who doesn’t just teach you, but helps you think on your own. And then, once you build up your confidence, you can do anything. Not just in engineering, but in life.
To close out, anything you want to say?
I’m just really excited to be working with Pole Star Defense and looking forward to collaborating with other Hub tenants. I think we have really good partners throughout the whole building. We have an opportunity here to build some amazing synergy. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.