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NSA Historical Figures

Richard A. Day, Jr.

2009 Hall of Honor Inductee

Richard A. Day's NSA career began in the era of manually- operated networks of punched paper tape, and 100 word-per-minute circuits. When he retired in 1984, he left a world in which messages were released from an analyst's desktop in a fully automated network and delivered in seconds over multi-megabit transmission paths. He drove steady advances in timeliness, reliability and capacity to match the ever-expanding needs of the military and intelligence community for secure world-wide communications.

As Chief of the Engineering Staff in the Office of Telecommunications from 1959 to 1969, Mr. Day drew upon advances in the commercial world, and sponsored development or modification of equipment to suit NSA's special requirements.

In the late 1950s, as the task of rapidly delivering information from the source to the customer became especially urgent, Mr. Day designed prototypes for a system that forwarded information at a speed that not only met, but far exceeded the timeliness goal. This was the beginning of CRITICOM, the Critical Communications Network.

His early work on modems demonstrated their potential to NSA and the intelligence community, making it possible to expand the service of what are commonly called "backbone circuits."

As commercial telecommunications capabilities improved in the early 1970s, Mr. Day's work led to developing the ability to remote signals from overseas back to Ft. Meade. This was first done in 1974; subsequent decades saw the far-reaching effects of this ability in NSA's worldwide operations.

As a result of his team's efforts, working with contractors on emerging technology, NSA was the first government organization to engineer and implement fiber-optic communications links worldwide.

Richard A. Day was a pioneer who kept the Agency on the cutting edge of communications technology. Many of the systems he pioneered continue to serve the community today, and many of the newer systems evolved from this history.