Advanced radar, laser, electro-optic, infrared warning and countermeasure systems number among the technical innovations that Robert Zanzalari, of Barnegat, has developed and deployed during his civilian service with the U.S. Army’s Communications Electronics, Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). Such achievements illustrate why Zanzalari received on May 22, 2010 the NJIT Alumni Achievement Award. Such advances have increased the survivability of ground vehicles and aircraft, including the Army’s large helicopter fleet.
Today, at Fort Monmouth, Zanzalari is associate director of the CERDEC, which is part of the Army’s Research and Development Command. He oversees a portfolio intended to give troops a defensive and offensive edge in battle. He’s worked to provide this edge since his 1982 graduation with a BS in mechanical engineering.
“I looked at schools, including Stevens, but decided that NJIT offered the best preparation for the real-world workplace,” he said. A serious student, he didn’t arrive intending to play basketball. “You might say I was recruited,” he explains, after the athletics staff noticed his height of six feet, five inches. Zanzalari went on to score 1224 points, the 11th highest record in NJIT basketball history.
Zanzalari says that he accepted a position with the Army because he saw the opportunity to use his skills for a range of assignments much broader than would be the case as a junior member of most organizations in the private sector. Starting with the Management Information Systems Directorate at Picatinny Arsenal, he subsequently moved to Fort Monmouth and positions of increasing responsibility. His work has taken him abroad to present the benefits of leading-edge military technologies to U.S. allies.
In the late 1990’s, Zanzalari’s forward-looking responsibilities involved charting the strategic direction of efforts by a team of 75 engineers and scientists. He has been responsible for assessing the revitalization of systems engineering across his Center as well, in keeping with initiatives launched by the Department of Defense.
After passage of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Law, Zanzalari was assigned to oversee transfer of major CERDEC operations to the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. For the Army, this was the most complex move under the law. It was accomplished with maximum consideration for the personnel to be reassigned and without disrupting vital research and development initiatives.
Zanzalari has received other awards in recognition of his technical and managerial achievements. Among them are the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service and the Superior Civilian Service Award.
In his current position, Zanzalari is working to marshal technical resources from both the public and private sectors that best meet the Army’s needs. Yet whatever the technology or tactical use, the ultimate test will always be whether it helps our troops to accomplish their mission and bring them home safely from harm’s way.
“All aspects of my work for the Army are satisfying,” Zanzalari says. “But it’s gratifying to hear from the men and women in the field that what we do saves lives.”