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., and thrived amid the deadlines, the competition, and the personalities both at a newspaper and in the political realm. Bowman 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.

Over his career, Bowman has been honored with several awards for news writing and features, from the New England Press Association and the Maryland Press Association. He is also 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, Bowman 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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National Security
5:24 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Gen. John Allen To Retire, Not Pursue NATO Commander Nomination

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 6:42 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The Marine general poised to lead all NATO forces has decided to resign. General John Allen served 38 years in the military, including as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. But his long career will also be remembered for his peripheral role in a recent scandal. Here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

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Afghanistan
5:28 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Obama To Announce Withdrawal Of 34,000 U.S. Troops From Afghanistan

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 1:19 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The U.S. will bring home 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by this time next year. President Obama is expected to announce the news tonight in his State of the Union address. That will cut the force in half and set the stage for the pullout of most of the remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2014. The drawdown from Afghanistan is just one of several developments today on Capitol Hill that will have a big impact on the Pentagon.

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U.S.
4:51 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Pentagon To Extend Some Military Benefits To Same-Sex Partners

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 6:28 pm

The Pentagon announced on Monday that it will offer benefits to same-sex military couples, including access to base facilities. But the military stopped short of providing base housing and burial at Arlington National Cemetery, saying those are still under review. Other benefits — like health care — are prohibited by federal law under the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Two-Way
6:17 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Review Of Deadly Attack On Base In Afghanistan Finds Troops Let Guard Down

A Marine Corps review of the deadly Taliban attack on an allied base in Afghanistan last September found that some guard towers were unattended, and the insurgents "got lucky" by cutting through the fence at a remote area of the base in Helmand Province, Capitol Hill sources tell NPR.

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Politics
5:28 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Republicans Criticize Pentagon's Response To Attack On U.S. Consulate In Benghazi

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before a Senate committee Thursday about the September attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Panetta was questioned about whether the U.S. response was fast enough and about why the U.S. military had not been better prepared for the possibility of an attack.

The Two-Way
4:09 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Pentagon Will Brief Congress On Deadly Sept. 14 Camp Bastion Attack

More than four months after a deadly attack at a sprawling allied base in Afghanistan that killed two U.S. Marines, there are lingering questions about how it happened.

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Economy
6:02 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Pentagon Remains Big Target In Likely Budget Cuts

The winding down of the war in Afghanistan and efforts to slice the budget deficit will likely mean more spending cuts for the Pentagon.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 7:17 pm

The economy shrunk in the fourth quarter — for the first time in three years — and one of the critical reasons was a drop in defense spending. Apparently, contractors took precautionary steps and held onto money in case the federal government failed to avert the fiscal and tax crisis known as the fiscal cliff.

But there's now a new deadline — automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, which may hit at the beginning of March.

The Effect On Contractors

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U.S.
5:59 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Hagel Grilled By Fellow Republicans At Conformation Hearing

Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 12:53 pm

President Obama's pick to lead the Pentagon testified in a confirmation hearing before a Senate panel on Thursday. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, faces opposition chiefly from members of his own party. Senators grilled him over his support for Israel, American policy toward Iran, and cutbacks in the defense budget.

World
4:39 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

U.S. Military Seeks Its Role In Troubled North Africa

Gen. Carter Ham, who heads the U.S. Africa Command, meets with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last September. Amid upheaval in the region, AFRICOM is still attempting to define its mission.
Farouk Batiche Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 8:53 pm

The recent crises in northern Africa, from Libya to Mali to Algeria, have raised a host of questions about the role of the American military command responsible for the entire continent.

Founded in 2007, the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, was created to train African militaries so U.S. troops would not be called upon in times of crisis.

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Afghanistan
5:39 am
Thu January 10, 2013

How Many U.S. Forces Will Afghan Mission Need After 2014?

Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 3:04 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Those decisions about U.S. troop levels will have an impact on the lives of people in Afghanistan, especially in places where the Taliban insurgency remains active, like Kandahar. Kandahar is, of course, the birthplace of the Taliban movement. And to find out more about what Afghans are thinking about the U.S. drawdown, we reached Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, who is the director of a school in Kandahar, the Kandahar Institute of Modern Studies, which has offered, for several years, instruction to girls in computers, English and business management.

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Afghanistan
5:04 am
Wed October 24, 2012

U.S. Eager To Step Aside; Are Afghan Forces Ready?

Afghan soldiers stand at attention during a ceremony transferring authority from NATO-led troops to Afghan security forces in Afghanistan's Kunar province. The transfer of responsibility for security from NATO-led ISAF forces to Afghan troops is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.
Rahmat Gul AP

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 7:30 am

America's exit strategy in Afghanistan is to have Afghan forces take the lead in fighting for their country. But too often these days, the job still falls to U.S. troops.

A senior officer in Afghanistan tells NPR that Americans continue to coddle Afghan forces and that this must stop. Tough love is in, the officer says. He says the Afghan forces are far more capable than the U.S. estimates and have simply grown accustomed to the U.S. doing everything for them.

That pretty much sums up the situation in southern Afghanistan earlier this year.

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It's All Politics
3:40 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Horses, Bayonets And The Modern Military

U.S. Army Special Forces ride horseback as they work with members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001.
AP

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 3:58 pm

President Obama said during Monday night's debate that the U.S. Army has fewer horses and bayonets than in the past.

That's true. Although Army Special Forces were on horseback in Afghanistan when they helped defeat the Taliban in 2001, the Army's horses are now used only for ceremonial occasions.

As for bayonets? The last bayonet charge was during the Korean War in 1951.

The bayonet has somewhat gone the way of the horse cavalry, as far as the Army is concerned (although Marines still use bayonets in training).

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The Two-Way
12:10 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Second Female Marine Fails Grueling Infantry Officer Course

Female Marines unload their rifles after a patrol with Afghan soldiers in Helmand province in June. The Marine Corps leadership has started an experiment to determine whether female Marine lieutenants have what it takes to become infantry officers and lead on the battlefield.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

The second of two female Marines who tried to make it through the grueling Infantry Officer Course has failed due to medical reasons. The female volunteers are part of a study by the Marines to see if women can become ground combat leaders.

The Marines have not released the names of either woman, citing privacy concerns.

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The Two-Way
2:52 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Marine General Expected To Be Next Commander In Afghanistan

Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Marines.mil

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce during a meeting of NATO defense leaders in Brussels Wednesday that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford will be nominated to succeed Gen. John Allen as the top commander in Afghanistan, according to a defense official familiar with the decision.

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Solve This
6:06 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Afghanistan Deadline Awaits Next U.S. President

Afghan children run to school on Sept. 24. Whoever takes over as the next U.S. president will have to determine how many troops will remain after the December 2014 deadline to help with long-term security.
Jeff Pachoud AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 1:24 pm

How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.

The war hasn't been a major issue in the presidential campaign, and polls show American voters are tiring of the war. But the next commander in chief will find the Afghan war among the most difficult of many foreign policy challenges.

Both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney appear to agree on a date: the last day of December 2014. That's when the Afghan security forces are scheduled to takeover.

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National Security
3:49 am
Thu October 4, 2012

First Female Marines Take Combat Leadership Test

Female Marines unload their rifles after a patrol with Afghan soldiers in Helmand province in June. The Marine Corps leadership has started an experiment to determine whether female Marine lieutenants have what it takes to become infantry officers and lead on the battlefield.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 10:19 am

Women in the U.S. military have been flying warplanes for years, and recently began serving in artillery and tank units. But they're still barred from direct ground combat.

Now, for the first time in the course's 35-year history, the Marine Corps is putting the first women through its grueling Infantry Officer Course: 86 days crawling through obstacle courses, lugging heavy machine guns, navigating the woods at night.

Col. Todd Desgrosseilliers, the top trainer at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia, says there's a good reason the course is so tough that 1 in 5 Marines fail.

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National Security
5:09 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

U.S.-Afghan Patrols Halted After Insider Attacks

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:09 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Insider attacks in Afghanistan have killed more than 50 U.S. and allied service members since the beginning of the year. Now they're having an effect on military operations. The American command in Kabul has temporarily halted joint patrols between U.S. and Afghan forces.

As NPR's Tom Bowman explains, that could complicate America's exit strategy, which depends on training Afghans to handle their own security.

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History
3:45 am
Mon September 17, 2012

Antietam: A Savage Day In American History

Between two farm fields in Sharpsburg, Md., there was a sunken road, which Confederates used as a rifle pit until they were overrun by federal troops. The road has since been known as "Bloody Lane."
Library of Congress

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:51 am

On this morning 150 years ago, Union and Confederate troops clashed at the crossroads town of Sharpsburg, Md. The Battle of Antietam remains the bloodiest single day in American history.

The battle left 23,000 men killed or wounded in the fields, woods and dirt roads, and it changed the course of the Civil War.

It is called simply the Cornfield, and it was here, in the first light of dawn that Union troops — more than 1,000 — crept toward the Confederate lines. The stalks were at head level and shielded their movements.

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Africa
4:45 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Libyan Guards May Have Faltered At U.S. Consulate

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 11:19 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From that same reporter in Benghazi, we also heard that Libyans are blaming their government for failing to control the spread of weapons after the civil war and for failing to protect the U.S. consulate. Here in the U.S., there are also questions about whether the State Department could have done more to defend its diplomats in Libya. NPR's Tom Bowman has that story.

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