Phil Thomas is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Schar School of Policy and Government where he leads a Global Food Security Project addressing the causes and effects of global hunger and teaches a course on the national security implications of global food insecurity. He is also an adjunct faculty member of Mason’s Honors College where he teaches an undergraduate course on the problems and challenges of global hunger.
Thomas is currently engaged in research on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on global food security. He participated in the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 and served as an advisor to Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy September 2021 report, “Covid, Conflict, and Climate Change: Food Insecurity Today and the Way Forward.”
He contributed to a 2017-18 Mason interdisciplinary research project and related journal articles on nutrition and food security in rural Kenya. In 2017, as head of Mason’s Global Food Security Project, Thomas joined with the Stimson Center in co-sponsoring a major review of the national security implications of food security which involved four joint conferences and the issuance of a major report with detailed recommendations.
Thomas co-authored a 2015 Mason Centers on the Public Service research paper which assessed the impact of food aid reforms on the U.S. shipping industry. This report was used extensively by executive and legislative branch officials in congressional hearings and in developing new guidance on U.S. international food aid programs. The report was the result of a major two-year externally funded research grant.
While at the Schar School, Thomas has managed four Global Food Security Summits addressing many critical global food security problems. He is a member of several Washington, D.C., international food security working groups focusing on the elimination of global hunger.
He served as an international affairs specialist and assistant director with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, from 1972 until his retirement in 2013, where he directed numerous reviews of U.S. International Food Assistance and Global Food Security Programs, and U.N. operations. His congressionally mandated reviews and investigations resulted in significant management reforms focused on the national security implications of global food aid and food security issues in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Central America, and the former Soviet Union. He traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, and Central America representing GAO as a Senior Management Official.
He also served as a senior member of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee Task Force on the U.N. Iraq Oil-for-Food program sanctions scandal in 2004 and 2005. The investigation resulted in the elimination of the program and a series of proposed management reforms for the operation of future food security related U.N. sanctions programs.
Thomas was elected to the Falls Church, Virginia, City Council in 1990 and served through 1994. He was vice mayor from 1992-94 and served on a variety of local government social service and economic development committees.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University in Sacramento. A U.S. Navy veteran, Thomas served from 1963 to 1966 as a chaplain’s assistant in San Diego, Annapolis, Norfolk, the Caribbean, and Naples, Italy.