Former Senior CIA Officer Ronald Marks Joins the Schar School’s Top-Ranked Securities Studies Programs

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Former CIA Officer Ronald Marks, now a term visiting professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government, seated at a desk
Ronald Marks: The Schar School’s security studies programs are ‘a great convergence of positive things coming together all at one time, and frankly at the right time.’

Marks attended Portland, OR’s Lewis and Clark College, earning his undergraduate degree in business administration and economics, with a minor in math. A law degree was aborted after one year when he assumed management of his father’s lobbying business, where he had worked as a teenager. Marks had just begun his studies for a PhD when an offhand remark by a mentor at Lewis and Clark changed his fate: The CIA was hiring economists.

That began the start of Marks’ career in intelligence. “By October of 1983 I had been brought into the Central Intelligence Agency, and ended up with a nice long career there,” he said. “The CIA was not what I thought of first [for a career], but as I always tell people, when you see an opportunity like, that take it and run.”

Marks was placed into the career trainee program, a program filled with candidates meant to be the future leadership of the agency he said. “I was slotted to go into the spy side—the operations side—and I did.”

After a year’s worth of training, Marks stayed in operations for about five years. “I did rather well at it,” he said. “I came back to Washington and essentially oversaw some operations as well as did some support work on the analytical side for about a year or so.”

After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Marks was chosen—due to his previous lobbying experience at his father’s firm—to join the CIA’s Congressional Affairs office and serve as one of three Senate liaisons while working for five different directors of Central Intelligence.

After years of working for the Senate majority leader on Capitol Hill and inside the State Department and the National Reconnaissance Office, Marks received a call from CIA Director George Tenet asking for assistance to improve coordination between the CIA and the military. “I came back [to the agency] as a special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence for Military Support and engaged in that and Congressional Affairs.”

“Eventually I got an offer from the private sector that I couldn’t turn down,” Marks said. “I went into the private sector where I ran a number of operations for both IT companies and software firms.” In the end, Marks started his own consultancy firm. He also sits on several corporate and nonprofit boards.

“The teaching business was quite accidental,” Marks said. “I remember complaining to someone how I wanted to go back and teach as an adjunct, and I had a friend of mine over at the National Defense University who involved me teaching at night for almost seven years.”

Marks continued teaching at various universities in the Washington, D.C., area for several years after that. In 2020, he was offered an adjunct position in the Schar School’s top-ranked Master’s in International Security program where he brings his wealth of experience and expertise to the classroom.

“I think the Schar School is in a unique position,” Marks said. “The ability to bring in practitioners from intelligence and from the cyber world, it’s a nice combination of issues. We are experiencing the fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s affecting national security policy.”

Marks joins a staff of security experts that includes former CIA and NSA director Michael V. Hayden, former acting CIA director Michael Morell, former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, and other former top intelligence officials.

“It’s a great convergence of positive things coming together all at one time, and frankly at the right time,” he said of the program. “The Schar School will build a big constituency out there that can network and will know each other and bring the ‘Schar’ name forward—and bring other students forward over time.” 

Schar School facts: The Schar School is ranked No. 4 in the country for public institution security studies programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2021). A gift from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation allows $450,000 in new scholarships for master’s students enrolled in the securities studies program.