Ron Marks ‘78 Washington Insider

Ron Marks ‘78 Washington Insider

Ron Marks’ life took a surreal turn one lazy afternoon during graduate school. Kicking back in his room at the University of Oregon, he heard a knock at the door. Outside were two “suits” requesting his presence at a CIA interview.

For a moment, time stopped. Then he remembered he had dashed off an application to the CIA when he heard the agency was hiring economists.

Marks rifled through his closet, pieced together what passed for professional attire, and scrambled off to the interview.

One year later, he began what would become a 16-year career at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in McLean, Virginia.

“I was always certain that whatever I was working on mattered,” says Marks, not only a CIA veteran but also former intelligence counsel to Senate leaders Robert Dole and Trent Lott. Although he cannot go into detail, Marks worked on projects related to international economic and financial issues in East Asia and the former Soviet Union. From 1990 through 1995, he served as U.S. Senate liaison for five CIA directors.

After leaving the agency in August 1999, Marks has embraced the role of political TV and radio commentator and written extensively about national security and defense issues for the mainstream press and scholarly journals.

For example, in a March 31 Washington Times editorial, Marks heaped praise on the so-called WMD Commission/Robb-Silberman report, which he says “looks coolly and concisely at the failures and problems of America’s intelligence pre-September 11.”

“The myriad failures range from an ungodly set of bureaucratic entanglements among Department of Defense, CIA, and FBI to analysis that could at best be described as ‘shoddy’ to human intelligence that was virtually non-existent. The report, however, does not wallow in the Washington blame game,” he wrote, declaring the onset of true U.S. intelligence reform.

Marks, who sits on a number of prestigious boards and committees, is a 2005 senior fellow at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, a think tank whose members focus on issues such as private sector participation in national security initiatives. “Eighty-five to ninety percent of the nation’s infrastructure is held in private hands,” he says. “For every federal Hoover Dam, there are three or four privately held chemical plants.”

He also fancies himself a gunslinger for hire in a town fraught with peril for newcomers. Armed with quick wit and political savvy, he helps businesses establish relationships in Washington, D.C. Marks currently serves as vice president for business development and marketing at Digital Sandbox, a risk-management software company based in the nation’s capital.

Reflecting on a career he likens to a well-run marathon and on a successful 20-year marriage to attorney Suzanne Marks, he grins and says, “Not bad for a kid from Gresham.”

–by Pattie Pace