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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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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5:43am

Sat December 1, 2012
National Security

Farewell: USS Enterprise Starred In History And Film

Originally published on Sun December 2, 2012 1:17 pm

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Joseph carries his 1-year-old daughter, Maleah, to his re-enlistment ceremony aboard the USS Enterprise at the Norfolk Naval Station on March 8. The ship began its final deployment on March 11.
Steve Helber AP

Sailors, veterans and their families are saying goodbye in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday to the USS Enterprise, which was the largest ship in the world and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier when it was commissioned in 1961.

In its illustrious history, the Enterprise served at the center of international events for a half-century — from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam to the Iraq War.

And it had a distinguished Hollywood career as well, playing a leading role in the 1986 film Top Gun, which starred Tom Cruise as a young naval aviator.

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3:31am

Fri November 2, 2012
The Two-Way

U.S. Offers New Details Of Deadly Libya Attack

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 11:43 am

A Libyan military guard stands in front of one of the U.S. Consulate's burned out buildings on Sept. 14. The U.S. is offering new details of the attack on the consulate that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Mohammad Hannon AP

Once a mob began attacking the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, officials in Washington, D.C., watched with alarm. Now, new details are emerging about their response to the deadly attack.

President Obama and his entire national security team monitored what was going on half a world away. Army Gen. Carter Ham, who was the regional commander for Africa, happened to be in Washington that day.

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5:04am

Wed October 24, 2012
Afghanistan

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

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

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

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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3:40pm

Tue October 23, 2012
It's All Politics

Horses, Bayonets And The Modern Military

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

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

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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12:10pm

Tue October 16, 2012
The Two-Way

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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2:52pm

Tue October 9, 2012
The Two-Way

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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6:06am

Sun October 7, 2012
Solve This

Afghanistan Deadline Awaits Next U.S. President

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

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

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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3:49am

Thu October 4, 2012
National Security

First Female Marines Take Combat Leadership Test

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

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

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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3:45am

Mon September 17, 2012
History

Antietam: A Savage Day In American History

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

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

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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5:08pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Faces Growing 'Insider Attacks' In Afghanistan

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 5:55 pm

Spc. Ben Purvis (center) helps train Afghan troops on how to use mortars in the eastern province of Kunar in June. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, points to several factors in the rise of "insider attacks" on American forces. He says relations between U.S. and Afghan troops are good overall.
Lucas Jackson Reuters/Landov

Gunmen wearing Afghan police and army uniforms have killed 40 U.S. and NATO troops so far this year, and the top American commander in Afghanistan says there is no single reason — and no simple solution.

Taliban infiltrators, disputes between NATO and Afghan security forces, and even the timing of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, are all factors, according to Gen. John Allen.

"We think the reasons for these attacks are complex," says Allen, who spoke by video link from Kabul on Thursday. Ten of the American deaths have come in just the past two weeks.

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3:19am

Fri August 10, 2012
National Security

Air Force Chief Leaves Legacy In The Sky: Drones

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 6:28 am

Gen. Norton Schwartz (shown here in October 2010) is stepping down as the top U.S. Air Force officer.
Tim Sloan AFP/Getty Images

The top officer in the U.S. Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, is stepping down Friday after four years on the job.

Schwartz got the job after his predecessor was fired for — among other things — clashing with his Pentagon bosses over how many fighter jets the military needs.

Schwartz is most likely to be remembered for pushing another kind of aircraft: drones.

At this moment, dozens of these unmanned aircraft are flying high above Afghanistan.

Just don't call them drones when speaking with Schwartz.

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3:27pm

Tue July 31, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Wages Sisyphean War Against Afghan Corruption

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 6:35 pm

U.S. investigators allege that Afghan Gen. Ahmad Zia Yaftali stole tens of millions of dollars' worth of medicine from the Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul. He has been removed from that post, but has not been prosecuted. He's shown here at the hospital on Dec. 18, 2010.
Altaf Qadri AP

U.S. officials consider widespread corruption one of the main barriers to a stable Afghanistan. They say it undermines support for the government and helps fuel the Taliban insurgency.

The U.S. has trained Afghan investigators and assisted in high-level corruption probes, yet the U.S. has little to show for its efforts.

The U.S. has created several task forces, including a one that's currently being set up: the Illicit Activities Initiative for Afghanistan, based in Washington.

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4:20pm

Thu July 19, 2012
The Two-Way

As Fighting In Syria Intensifies, U.S. Worries About Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 4:49 pm

Syrian President Bashar Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on Jan. 11.
AFP/Getty Images

"Deathly afraid."

That's what one U.S. official says about the prospect that Syria's vast stockpile of chemical weapons might be used against rebel forces. From a U.S. national security standpoint, an even worse outcome would be for those weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.

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