Schliesske lured by 'cool stuff'

After seeing the 'cool stuff' his twin brother and father were doing in the Army, Harold Schliesske left the private sector for government leadership — and he hasn’t looked back.

Harold Schliesske Jr.
Assistant product manager
Office of the Project Manager Defense Department Biometrics

Harold Schliesske studied information systems at a small Philadelphia-area college and worked in the information technology field after graduating. But when he saw what his twin brother and father were doing in the Army — the "cool stuff" — he left the private sector for government leadership. As he ascends the ranks inside the Beltway, he hasn’t looked back.

And why would he? As assistant product manager at the Office of the Project Manager Defense Department Biometrics' Tactical Biometric Systems organization, Schliesske is at the helm of two of the leading biometrics systems in the Central Command’s dedicated area of responsibility. He helps develop technology that protects combat personnel on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The biometric devices the organization supplies for enrolling local residents who work at U.S. bases can mean the difference between a secure base environment and a potential disaster.

“These devices are a means of providing security to our troops,” Schliesske said. “With biometrics, we can enroll individuals at the base and check against known repositories, like an Iraqi database. And we can do things like lift prints from remnants of improvised explosive devices and add [them] to the database [for reference] as well.”

After deciding to make the jump from private-sector IT to government work, Schliesske enrolled in the Army Knowledge Leaders program and served a two-year internship that took him around the United States and the world.

Colleagues say that diverse exposure helped groom Schliesske into a Rising Star.

“Knowing the technology is a must, but Harold grasps the political and interpersonal nuances," said Gary Winkler, program executive officer for enterprise information systems, the umbrella organization under which Schliesske’s office falls. "He’s got a great handle on the technology but goes far beyond that. He’s been a high performer since I’ve known him as an intern. He’s head and shoulders above the rest.”

Winkler also noted that Schliesske’s work has been integral to the thriving partnership between Project Manager DOD Biometrics and other federal agencies. “That partnership is one of our biggest successes," he said. "It’s the best example of interagency cooperation.” 

Schliesske said interagency communication is one of his biggest challenges. “The government is so big, and there are so many players, stakeholders and interests involved," he said. "I spend a lot of time getting viewpoints and then finding the best solutions.”

For Schliesske, motivation lies within the bigger picture. “I want to make a difference on as big a scale as possible and deliver a product the warfighter needs. Whatever side you’re on politically, you’re helping a soldier in the field who already has a tough job.”

As it turns out, that motivation is right on target. “Harold is truly deserving of this award," said Lee Harvey, deputy program executive officer for enterprise information systems. "His tireless dedication to the DOD biometrics program has been instrumental in keeping the program on track — ensuring warfighters continue to be as safe as possible while in harm’s way.”

Schliesske said he plans to stay in government as he moves forward in his career, and whatever lies ahead, he hopes to continue to find ways to support DOD and the troops.

“I just get a sense of satisfaction in getting people with malicious intent off the street,” he said.

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