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Robert Thomas

Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas, Jr., U.S. Navy (ret), is a professor of practice at the School of Global Policy & Strategy at UC San Diego. The son of a career Marine, Thomas graduated from the University of California with a BS in civil engineering. He holds a MS in national security studies from the National War College.

As a career submarine officer, Thomas has served on fast-attack submarines operating in both US Pacific Command and US Central Command theaters of operation. His assignments included USS Guitarro (SSN 665), USS Permit (SSN 594), USS Asheville (SSN 758) and USS Bremerton (SSN 698) where he served as commanding officer. Additionally, he took command of USS Tucson (SSN 770) while serving as deputy commander, Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 11.

Thomas served as commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet Representative West Coast; commander, Submarine Squadron 11 and commander, Task Force 74/54 in Yokosuka, Japan. In his last operational assignment, VADM Thomas commanded the U.S. 7th Fleet from July 2013 to September 2015. He then assumed duties as the Director of the Navy Staff and retired in January 2017.

Ashore, Thomas served as flag aide to the deputy chief of naval operations (OP-07); program analyst in the Secretary of the Navy’s Office of Program Appraisal; director of Operational Support (CNO N23); assistant deputy director for Politico-Military Affairs, Western Hemisphere, J5, on the Joint Staff; director, Plans and Policy (N5) for Naval Special Warfare Command; director, Strategy and Policy Division (OPNAV N51); vice director of operations, J3, on the Joint Staff; and chief of staff, J5, on the Joint Staff.


  • naval operations
  • national security