Tom Bowman

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan often for month-long visits and embedded with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at The Baltimore Sun. Altogether he was at The Sun for nearly two decades, covering the Maryland Statehouse, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA). His coverage of racial and gender discrimination at NSA led to a Pentagon investigation in 1994.

Initially Bowman imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. During college Bowman worked as a stringer at The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass. He also worked for the Daily Transcript in Dedham, Mass., and then as a reporter at States News Service, writing for the Miami Herald and the Anniston (Ala.) Star.

Bowman is a co-winner of a 2006 National Headliners' Award for stories on the lack of advanced tourniquets for U.S. troops in Iraq. In 2010, he received an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of a Taliban roadside bomb attack on an Army unit.

Bowman earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, and a master's degree in American Studies from Boston College.

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Parallels
3:08 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

CIA Is Quietly Ramping Up Aid To Syrian Rebels, Sources Say

Syrian President Bashar Assad (right) visits the Christian village of Maaloula, near Damascus on Sunday. Assad's forces have been gaining the upper hand in the fighting, and the CIA is now increasing training and aid to Syrian rebels.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 5:13 pm

The U.S. is providing more arms and training to the moderate rebels in Syria, under a growing secret program run by the CIA in Jordan. Sources tell NPR that secret program could be supplemented by a more public effort in the coming months involving American military trainers.

The change in strategy comes as the White House sees Syrian leader Bashar Assad growing in strength, and continuing to strike rebel strongholds.

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National Security
1:30 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Army Vs. National Guard: Who Gets Those Apache Helicopters?

An airborne Apache attack helicopter takes off above a Black Hawk helicopter from the South Carolina Army National Guard base in Eastover, S.C., in 2007. The Army is planning to move all the National Guard's Apache helicopters to the regular Army, a move opposed by many in the Guard.
Mary Ann Chastain AP

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 4:38 pm

For decades the National Guard has fought hard against the stereotype that it was the place to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, or that it's a place to get college money rather than combat duty.

Guard leaders thought that after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq they had finally earned some respect. So it was a body blow when the Army's top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, unveiled his plan on Capitol Hill to take all of the National Guard's Apache helicopters and move them to the regular Army.

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National Security
1:52 am
Fri April 11, 2014

What's The Right Size For The U.S. Army?

As the U.S. winds down the Afghan war, the government is eyeing a much reduced military force — to its lowest level since World War II. Here, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, salute during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a homecoming ceremony Feb. 27 in Fort Knox, Ky.
Luke Sharrett Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:14 am

With the U.S. military out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, which peaked with a force of around 570,000 a few years ago, was supposed to drop to around 490,000 troops.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that's still too big.

"An Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy," Hagel told a news conference in February.

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News
2:05 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Air Force Roots Out Cheaters In Ranks — As Well As Why They Did It

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 5:03 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Air Force has fired nine officers in connection with a cheating scandal at one nuclear missile base. An investigation found there was widespread cheating on proficiency tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The case involves a total of 79 officers.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James called it a problem of leadership culture.

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Around the Nation
3:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Air Force To Release Results Of Cheating Probe

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:18 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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News
2:28 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Following Plea Deal, General's Misconduct Gets Fine And Reprimand

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 4:20 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A U.S. Army general accused of sexual assault will not face jail time. Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was sentenced today at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Sinclair could have faced a prison term of up to 18 months as part of a plea deal. Instead, he'll receive a letter of reprimand and a $20,000 fine. Some members of Congress and victims' advocates are outraged at what they see as a leniency of the sentence. NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins me now to talk about what happened.

So, Tom, was this sentence a surprise?

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News
2:09 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

General Takes Plea Deal In Sexual Assault Case

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 4:33 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, a plea deal in the most closely watched sexual assault case in the military. An Army general admitted to charges of mistreating a subordinate and adultery. But Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair will not face more serious charges. That's because the Army's case against him fell apart. We're going to hear more about what happened now from NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Hi, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Robert.

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National Security
2:20 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Hagel Proposes Cuts To Size And Spending of Armed Forces

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 6:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's plan to cut the military. At the Pentagon today, he called for a smaller Army and Marine Corps. He also suggested grounding a vintage Cold War plane and asked troops to pay more for health care and other benefits. Hagel said his budget plan offers a new post-war vision for the Pentagon. But as NPR's Tom Bowman reports, it's a vision that veterans groups and many in Congress don't share.

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National Security
2:05 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

New Military Ethics Chief Will Face A Full Plate

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 5:53 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to appoint a senior officer to oversee military ethics, in response to recent high-profile ethics problems. Whoever takes the job will face a stiff challenge.

National Security
3:16 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Hagel Concerned By Ethical Lapses In Armed Forces

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 5:59 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The American military is trying to get to the bottom of a series of scandals. Air Force nuclear missile officers cheated on tests, Navy sailors are accused of the same, and more - enough that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is concerned that there's a pattern here, a problem with ethical lapses across the armed services. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now to talk about this. Good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

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National Security
3:30 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

A Medal Of Valor, 30 Years In Coming

In 1984, an American Army unit engaged in this firefight as it shielded a Soviet defector who made a break across the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Thirty years after the battle, American soldier Mark Deville has finally received a Silver Star for bravery.
Courtesy of Mark Deville

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 4:26 pm

The year is 1984: A Soviet defector dashes across the Korean border — chased by North Korean troops. American troops shield him and open fire on the North Koreans. There are dead and wounded on both sides.

Now, 30 years later, one of those Americans is finally receiving his medal for bravery.

Mark Deville was just 19 on that November day in 1984, part of an American Army unit patrolling the tense border between North and South Korea.

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Afghanistan
2:47 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Pentagon, White House Are At Odds Over Afghanistan

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 6:01 pm

The Pentagon is saying that it needs to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train Afghans and maintain a counterterror mission. But military officials are once again running into interference from Vice President Joe Biden. That's nothing new: Biden in particular has for years pushed for a counterterror option of only several thousand troops, though the military says that number is far too small. The Pentagon argues that Biden's proposal would mean the U.S. forces would be largely consigned to their bases.

The Two-Way
12:26 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Gen. Dempsey: Better To Get Others To Solve Their Own Problems

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talking to U.S. military personnel in Tokyo last April.
Kyodo/Landov

On Morning Edition, NPR's Tom Bowman profiled Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey, as Tom reported, says the U.S. public, and even its leaders, know little about how military power can be used. The disconnect is most glaring when comes to this: What can the U.S. military achieve in places like Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria?

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The Two-Way
3:29 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Gen. Dempsey Disputes Gates' Characterization Of Obama

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, in November of 2013.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 5:58 pm

The nation's top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is disputing former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' contention that President Obama is suspicious of senior military leaders.

In an interview with NPR on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he's never picked up on those feelings from the White House.

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National Security
9:27 am
Sat January 11, 2014

Gates Memoir Tests Civilian-Military Rules Of Engagement

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he didn't want to wait until Obama's term was up before releasing his memoir because the issues were too urgent.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 10:52 am

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' new book, Duty, Memoirs of a Secretary at War, paints a picture of a White House suspicious of military leaders and their motives.

In the book, Gates criticizes both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden over issues like the Afghanistan war. It's a case study of civilian-military tensions that are as old as the Republic.

A President Wary Of Being Boxed In

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National Security
1:24 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don't Meet New Pullup Standard

Female Marine recruits train on the rifle range during boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Feb. 25. The Marine Corps said it has postponed new physical standards that would require women to do three pullups, noting that many female recruits were not yet able to do so.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 6:06 am

Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that has been put off.

The Marine Corps announced it quietly. There was no news conference — just a notice on its social media sites and an item on its own TV show, The Corps Report.

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Parallels
1:17 am
Thu December 5, 2013

China's Military Buildup Reignites Worries In Asia, Beyond

Chinese naval soldiers stand guard on China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning as it travels toward a military base in Sanya, Hainan province, in this undated picture made available on Nov. 30.
China Stringer Network Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 10:18 am

China has been building up its military strength for some time now, and pushing ever farther from its coastline and into international waters. The real concern now is for miscalculation — particularly with Japan — that ends up in gunfire.

Just six months ago, the Pentagon released its annual report on China's military. Its defense budget was growing. The country was building more stealthy aircraft and submarines. It even bought an aircraft carrier from the Ukraine.

Pentagon official David Helvey highlighted particular areas of concern.

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Afghanistan
2:02 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

When Most U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan, Contractors May Stay

A helicopter from the American security contractor DynCorp provides air support as members of an Afghan eradication force plow opium poppies on April 3, 2006, in the Helmand province, Afghanistan.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 2:35 pm

Should the Afghan government sign a security agreement, the U.S. plans to keep between 6,000 and 9,000 American troops in Afghanistan even after the U.S. and NATO's combat mission officially ends late in 2014.

Beginning in 2015, the remaining troops would train Afghan soldiers and mount operations against any remnants of al-Qaida.

But they wouldn't be the only ones who stay behind: U.S. troops would almost certainly be outnumbered by civilian contractors.

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National Security
2:29 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Women Pass Marine Training, Clear First Hurdle To Combat Role

Pfc. Katie Gorz (center) served as a squad leader during the training at Camp Geiger, N.C.
Tom Bowman NPR

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 4:54 pm

More than 200 Marines have been training since late September in the pine forests of North Carolina. They've been hiking for miles carrying 87-pound packs and assault rifles, sleeping in the field, attacking mock enemy positions.

And for the first time, women took part in the training. Three of them made it to the end and graduated Thursday morning.

They were there at Camp Geiger to answer the question of whether women have what it takes to become combat infantry Marines.

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National Security
5:34 am
Sun November 10, 2013

Why Does The NSA Keep An EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE? It's Top Secret

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 10:54 am

What do the following words have in common?

SHARKFINN
KEYSTONE
DISHFIRE
TWISTEDPATH

The answer? They're all NSA code words.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of documents about some of the most secretive programs run by the U.S. government. So secret, they're all given classified names.

You may have heard of PRISM, the name of the secret NSA program that vacuums up Internet communications. Turns out just about everything else at the world's biggest spy agency has its own code word.

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Parallels
2:00 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Case Of Marines Desecrating Taliban Bodies Takes A New Twist

A still frame taken from a YouTube video shows Marines who were later disciplined for desecrating three dead Taliban members in a 2011 incident in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
YouTube

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 9:43 am

In a case that caused a major stir last year, a YouTube video surfaced showing Marines in Afghanistan joking and laughing as they urinated on three dead Taliban fighters. The Marines involved in the July 2011 incident in the southern province of Helmand were disciplined.

It seemed the case was over, but now it has taken a strange twist. There are allegations that the Marines' top officer, Gen. James Amos, illegally interfered with the judicial proceedings in an effort to ensure harsher penalties.

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NPR Story
2:50 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Women Break New Ground In Marine Infantry Training

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 4:53 am

Female Marines have been training for the past month at Camp Lejeune, trying to make it through infantry training. They've got a month to go, including a 12-mile hike with a heavy pack. They're the first ones ever to handle the training, part of an effort to integrate women into combat positions by 2016.

National Security
2:44 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Foundation To Pay Military Death Benefits During Shutdown

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 5:39 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On a Thursday, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The remains of four American service members were returned yesterday to Dover Air Force Base. They were killed in Afghanistan.

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The Two-Way
12:02 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Officials Detail Shutdown's Chilling Effect On National Security

National Intelligence Director James Clapper waits for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary on Wednesday.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 3:42 pm

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told Congress this week that the partial federal government shutdown has forced the furlough of some 70 percent of employees throughout the intelligence community.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Clapper, a 50-year veteran of intelligence work.

So what impact is all this having on the spy world?

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NPR Story
2:45 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Obama Considers Training Options For Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 4:42 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Obama has promised limited military action against Syria. He says missile strikes are not about regime change and there will be no boots on the ground. But even as the Congress debates the president's plans for action, the White House is looking at broader options.

NPR's Tom Bowman reports the president may call on the U.S. military to help build up the Syrian opposition.

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Parallels
1:38 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Egypt's Top General And His U.S. Lessons In Democracy

Downtown Cairo is plastered with huge posters of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the U.S.-trained Egyptian army chief who helped overthrow President Mohammed Morsi.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 4:56 pm

Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man at the center of the military takeover in Egypt, is the latest in a series of American-trained foreign officers to oust a civilian government.

Just seven years ago, he was a student at the Army War College in rural Pennsylvania. At a recent military graduation ceremony in Alexandria, Egypt, el-Sissi talked about his ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

The army was forced to take that step, the general said, in the wake of mass protests against the elected government.

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All Tech Considered
4:06 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Special Ops Envisions 'Iron Man'-Like Suit To Protect Troops

Concept art of the suit the Special Operations Command is trying to build.
Raytheon via YouTube

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 4:24 pm

In the Iron Man movie series, Robert Downey Jr. plays a billionaire working with his trusty robot to build a protective suit that will help him battle evil.

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National Security
1:37 am
Fri July 5, 2013

NSA's Reach Leads To Calls For Updated Eavesdropping Laws

National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 8:18 am

The continuing leak of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has renewed a debate about the U.S. government's power to reach secretly into the personal lives of its citizens.

But there is at least one point on which both privacy advocates and security experts agree: The laws governing electronic eavesdropping have not kept pace with technology.

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Those Who Serve
1:08 am
Thu July 4, 2013

From Front-Line Soldier To Trainer, An Afghan Odyssey

ANA soldiers plot coordinates on a map with the help of their American trainers.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 1:55 pm

This report is part of "Those Who Serve," an occasional series that looks at those who wear the military uniform during a time of war.

It's early afternoon at a small outpost in eastern Afghanistan, and U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Cunningham, with the 10th Mountain Division, heads into a long, dusty tent to teach Afghan soldiers the basics of map reading.

After the sun sets, American soldiers help Afghan soldiers outside the wire. They pop artillery shells containing what's called an illumination round.

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Parallels
1:20 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Friction Among Afghans A Threat To Post-U.S. Mission

A soldier from the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Manchus, looks toward the tree line through his rifle scope while on a foot patrol to visit Afghan Local Police in the Panjwai District of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Panjwai is one of the most dangerous districts in Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 1:48 pm

The Afghan farmer in Panjwai District, outside the southern city of Kandahar, is finally fed up with the Taliban.

His name is Abdullah Razik. He's slight, with a trim beard and a dark green shirt that falls below his knees.

The Taliban plant roadside bombs in his fields, he says, and shoot near his house. The area is one of the most dangerous in Afghanistan — the birthplace of the Taliban.

Not long ago, something worse happened, Razik says.

"My friend ... lost his hand," he says. "The Taliban were putting IEDs in my village" four months ago.

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