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Longtime DVI figure Lee Thomas retires

Defense Imagery Management Operations Center

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Lee Thomas, the Defense Visual Information (DVI) chief of policy and programs, and a leading institutional expert on all things Visual Information, retired from civilian service Jan. 31.

Before starting his civilian career at DVI, Thomas completed a 30-year Air Force career, where all but six years were in jobs related to VI.  “Looking back, I guess I was a founding member of the ‘Visual Information mafia,’” Thomas said. 

“For example, as a Captain on the Air Staff in 1987, I got to play a role in changing the term “audiovisual” to Visual Information.  I was also a member of the multi-service working group that created the Joint Combat Camera Center (JCCC) and the DVI team that conceived the VIRIN we use today.” 

After receiving his commission in 1980, Thomas’s first assignment was to the Headquarters Aerospace Audiovisual Service.  His final assignment was to DVI as the Director.  “During my military service I gained a lot of expertise and passion for the VI mission,” Thomas said.  

“After the Air Staff, they sent me for a graduate degree in Mass Communication where I completed a research thesis on the impact of new media technology.  I used that analysis and research expertise to lead a school-wide transformation when I was the DINFOS Deputy Commandant a few years later.  At the National War College, I studied information power and national security.  All that education and experience helped me during my time as a Colonel.  For example, I was part of a senior officer PA and VI assessment team brought by Gen. (David) Petraeus to Iraq to recommend actions to remove barriers to effective communication.  Also, as DVI Director, I led a world-wide VI workshop focused on the information power of VI that was attended by more than 450 people from across the Department and eight allied nations.”

After retiring in 2010, Thomas began his civilian career back at DVI.  
“It wasn’t my original intention to return to DVI, but I’m very grateful I did,” Thomas said.  

“I wanted a job where I could play a key supporting role.  At DVI, I was able to make a lasting difference in strategic areas like policy, doctrine and governance.

As he prepares to leave federal service, Thomas stressed the need for thinking strategically about VI. 
He sees the establishment of information as a joint function as a huge opportunity and challenge for VI.  

“We’re part of a joint force doing battle in the information space. We need to be extremely agile. If we can’t do that, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant,” he said. “We need all the VI experts to be looking at the big picture.”


After leaving DVI for his second and final time, he plans to pursue a third master’s degree, focus on his off-duty passion for fingerstyle guitar composing, and spend more time with Clarissa, his wife of 42 years.




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