Tom Bowman

If you ask NPR reporter Tom Bowman about his career aspirations, he'd probably tell you he already has the best job possible: covering the Pentagon for NPR. For Bowman, coming to NPR was an "excellent opportunity to work at a great organization with a world-wide reputation, a huge listenership, and stability" and to work closely with "some of the best journalists around."

Bowman's nuanced NPR coverage reflects his years of experience on his current beat. Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at the Baltimore Sun. His familiarity and knowledge of the people and issues connected with the Pentagon, he says, are great assets to his coverage.

During his 19 years at the Baltimore Sun, Bowman also covered the Maryland Statehouse, the United States 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.

Bowman says he has been groomed for journalism since a young age, recalling his years at a parochial school just outside of Boston. The strict Catholic nuns and scholarly Xaverian brothers were "good preparation for covering the Pentagon," he reflects. "You are taught how to hone your questions and develop a thick skin." Bowman also recognizes that the "training under lots of Irish relatives – and friends – who can charm their way into a situation and talk a dog off a meat truck," have been assets to his career.

Bowman initially imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. However, after graduation he landed a job 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 as 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.

NPR's White House Correspondent David Greene says of Bowman, "Tom is so well-sourced. Anytime I would talk to someone at the Pentagon or in the military, they would not only know Tom, but would compliment his reporting and pass on a hello. And what a team player — Tom is always willing to pitch in and share his expertise in any way that makes our stories better."

Bowman earned a B.A. in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vt., and a master's degree in American Studies at Boston College.

If he had his choice of locales, Bowman's geographic inclinations would take him far from the DC area; he'd prefer to spend summers on Monhegan Island, Maine, and pass the winters skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Till then, you'll find him on NPR.

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3:24am

Fri December 27, 2013
National Security

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

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 8:06 am

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

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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3:17am

Thu December 5, 2013
Parallels

China's Military Buildup Reignites Worries In Asia, Beyond

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 12:18 pm

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

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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4:02pm

Thu November 28, 2013
Afghanistan

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

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 4:35 pm

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

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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3:11pm

Thu November 21, 2013
National Security

Women Pass Marine Training, Clear First Hurdle To Combat Role

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 6:54 pm

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

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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8:10am

Sun November 10, 2013
National Security

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

Originally published on Sun November 10, 2013 12:54 pm

iStockphoto.com

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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4:44am

Thu October 10, 2013
National Security

Foundation To Pay Military Death Benefits During Shutdown

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 7:39 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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2:02pm

Fri October 4, 2013
The Two-Way

Officials Detail Shutdown's Chilling Effect On National Security

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 5:42 pm

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

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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4:46am

Wed September 4, 2013
Middle East

Obama Considers Training Options For Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 6:42 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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3:33pm

Thu August 8, 2013
Parallels

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

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 6:56 pm

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

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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6:24pm

Mon August 5, 2013
All Tech Considered

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

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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3:37am

Fri July 5, 2013
National Security

NSA's Reach Leads To Calls For Updated Eavesdropping Laws

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 10:18 am

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

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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3:08am

Thu July 4, 2013
Those Who Serve

From Front-Line Soldier To Trainer, An Afghan Odyssey

Originally published on Fri July 5, 2013 3:55 pm

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

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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3:20am

Fri June 14, 2013
Parallels

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

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 3:48 pm

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

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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8:11am

Tue June 4, 2013
Afghanistan

U.S. Worries Afghan Forces Will Divide Along Ethnic Lines

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

When the American combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year, one concern for U.S. officials is the possibility that the Afghan security forces will then splinter along ethnic lines, and the warlords of the past will reemerge.

From Kandahar, here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

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3:47am

Tue June 4, 2013
Parallels

As U.S. Troops Draw Down, Can Afghans Take The Lead?

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 11:25 am

Villagers in Kasan gather to meet with Afghan local police and the Afghan National Army along with ANASF team members during a morning shura to discuss security.
David Gilkey NPR

There's just a sliver of light in the eastern sky as the patrol leaves the American compound through a thick metal door.

They scamper across Highway 2, a narrow asphalt road that leads to Kabul, just an hour's drive away — if not for the war. They cross an old graveyard and head toward the silhouette of a tree line, all seen through the eerie green glow of night-vision goggles.

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1:33pm

Thu May 30, 2013
Parallels

As The Clock Ticks, U.S. Forces Scale Back Afghan Goals

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 6:15 pm

The gray line in the upper left comes from an aerial view of Afghanistan's crucial Highway 1, the main route between Kabul and Kandahar, the two biggest cities. U.S. forces are still working to secure the route which runs through lush farm valleys and the high desert terrain.
David Gilkey NPR

As the American military winds down its efforts in Afghanistan, grand plans for nation building are giving way to limited, practical steps: building up the Afghan forces and denying the Taliban key terrain, especially the approaches to Kabul.

About an hour south of the capital Kabul, one Green Beret team returned to a village where American forces had pulled out.

Lt. Col. Brad Moses, who was in the Sayed Abad district four years ago, wandered around the government center and expressed disappointment at the scene.

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1:55pm

Mon May 27, 2013
Afghanistan

Service Members Observe Memorial Day Through Sweat And Tears

Originally published on Mon May 27, 2013 4:57 pm

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Johnson trains at Bagram Air Field for the Memorial Day Murphy, a CrossFit workout honoring a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2005.
David Gilkey NPR

At Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Michael Johnson exercises under a long, steel framework set on a wooden platform. It looks like a giant jungle gym. Above his head are pull-up bars and rings. A climbing rope is off to one side.

It's here where he and dozens of other soldiers and sailors will remember the fallen, just after sunrise, on Memorial Day. They'll all take part in a grueling exercise regimen, part of CrossFit, the popular high-intensity workout program.

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5:18pm

Fri May 3, 2013
Shots - Health News

From Battlefield To Boston: Marine Comforts Bombing Survivors

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 1:17 pm

Marine Sgt. Maj. Damion Jacobs (left) and Marine Capt. Cam West visit with Boston emergency workers who responded to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Oren Dorell for USA Today

3:20am

Tue April 30, 2013
National Security

U.S. Faces Fight At Intersection Of Crime And Extremism

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 3:27 pm

Gen. Antonio Indjai (left), Guinea-Bissau's army chief of staff, at the funeral of the country's late president, Malam Bacai Sanha, on Jan. 15, 2012. The U.S. says Indjai has been involved in drug trafficking, an allegation he denies. He recently eluded a U.S. sting operation that led to the capture of other officials from his country.
Mamadu Alfa Balde AFP/Getty Images

A suspected drug kingpin from the tiny West African nation of Guinea-Bissau was captured on the high seas by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency earlier this month, brought to Manhattan and is now awaiting trial.

The dramatic sting operation sheds light on what officials say is a growing national security threat: criminal networks teaming up with extremist organizations.

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4:47pm

Fri April 26, 2013
Politics

Pressure Builds On White House To Intervene In Syria

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. The White House tried to clarify its message on Syria today, saying it is still studying evidence that the government there has used chemical weapons. Here's press secretary Jay Carney.

JAY CARNEY: We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community. The degrees of confidence here are varying, this is not an airtight case.

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5:19pm

Wed April 3, 2013
National Security

With Eye On Budget, Hagel Seeks Pentagon Changes

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 8:50 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first major policy speech, laid out Wednesday how to deal with threats in an era of tight defense budgets.

Hagel has ordered the Pentagon to take a hard look at how many soldiers and sailors it needs and what types of weapons it buys. He says the Pentagon is at war with itself: There are competing and spiraling costs within the military — for aging weapons, and for health and pension benefits for military personnel and retirees.

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11:02am

Mon March 25, 2013
National Security

As Qualified Men Dwindle, Military Looks For A Few Good Women

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 5:59 pm

Army recruits perform exercises as part of a demonstration for tourists in front of the military-recruiting station in New York's Times Square.
Mark Lennihan AP

When the Pentagon said earlier this year that it would open ground combat jobs to women, it was cast in terms of giving women equal opportunities in the workplace — the military workplace.

But the move has practical considerations, too. The military needs qualified people to fill its ranks, and it's increasingly harder to find them among men.

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6:16pm

Wed March 13, 2013
The Two-Way

U.S. Troops Train For Possible Mission To Secure Syrian Chemical Agents

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 7:03 pm

Several weeks ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the U.S. is planning what to do about Syria's vast chemical weapons program once Bashar Assad's regime falls. The Syrians are believed to have hundreds of tons of chemical agents, including sarin, one of the deadliest chemical agents. A few drops can be lethal.

So the central question is this: How can those sites be secured so they don't fall into the wrong hands?

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6:17pm

Fri February 8, 2013
The Two-Way

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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4:09pm

Mon February 4, 2013

6:22pm

Fri February 1, 2013
Economy

Pentagon Remains Big Target In Likely Budget Cuts

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

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

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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5:12pm

Wed January 23, 2013
World

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

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

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

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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4:41am

Tue December 25, 2012
Africa

U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 7:22 am

Gen. Carter Ham is head of the U.S. African command. An Army brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., will begin helping train African militaries beat back a growing terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida.
AP

An Army brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., some 4,000, soldiers, will begin helping to train African militaries. The idea is to help African troops beat back a growing terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida.

The American troops will head over in small teams over the course of the next year. The Dagger Brigade returned to Kansas last year from a deployment to Iraq, where it trained and advised that country's security forces.

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4:29pm

Mon December 24, 2012
National Security

Hagel Would Be First Former Enlisted Soldier To Run Pentagon

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 11:20 am

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in Amman, Jordan, in 2008.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is said to be on President Obama's short list to be the next defense secretary. But even the possibility of his nomination has stirred up opposition — particularly from members of his own political party.

If Hagel can survive a political ambush in Washington, he would be the first Pentagon chief who saw combat as an enlisted soldier.

The blunt-spoken Hagel favors deeper cuts in military spending and is wary of entangling America in long overseas missions.

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3:06pm

Fri December 14, 2012
The Two-Way

U.S. Officials: Syria Has Prepared Several Dozen Chemical Bombs

President Obama has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown here in 2009, against using chemical weapons.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

U.S. and allied officials say the forces of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad have prepared several dozen bombs and shells loaded with the lethal chemical sarin.

The number is a larger estimate than has previously been reported. The Syrians loaded the weapons with the chemical agents in the past several weeks, the officials say.

Those preparations raise fears that the fighting against rebel forces could enter a new and more troubling phase, according to the officials, who requested anonymity.

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