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NSA Historical Figures

William O. Marks

2015 Hall of Honor Inductee

William O. Marks was a plank-holder of the Nuclear Command and Control System. First working as a Cryptographic Security Evaluator, Mr. Marks transferred into the office supporting Nuclear Command and Control (NC2) programs in the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile community.

The NC2 System that protects the U.S. strategic arsenal is a complex system for controlling and ensuring the survivability, safety, and security of nuclear weapons systems. Various cryptographic schemes secure and authenticate the decision process to meet national requirements to assure the use of nuclear weapons when authorized and prevent unauthorized or accidental use.

Mr. Marks was the program manager of a Secure Data Unit, used in three weapons systems and at Strategic Air Command headquarters. This was a first-of-its-kind device to authenticate weapon system security status, protect the integrity of targeting data, and provide COMSEC for critical launch commands. The unit was fielded in 1972 and used until 2009.

Mr. Marks played a strong leadership role in updating numerical standards and setting minimum standards for design and use of COMSEC measures in NC2 communications. These mathematical standards created some thirty years ago continue to provide the foundation for all NC2 cryptographic solutions.

Mr. Marks influenced the Air Force in a major design and procedural change in the ICBM Launch Enable Panel to combine coding features and the application of NSA protective tamper seals to deter and detect any potential unauthorized modification. These enhancements greatly improved ICBM crew quality of life, enhanced security, and saved millions of manpower dollars by enabling 24-hour strategic alerts.

From 1983 until his retirement in 1994, Mr. Marks was NSA's go-to person for all NC2 initiatives, including NSA's involvement in nuclear release messages, missile and weapon security, and NC2 communications systems. His legacy is not only the foundation upon which today's NC2 system is built, it is also his development and mentoring of the NSA workforce devoted to the NC2 mission.