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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NPR Story
6:00 am
Sat March 24, 2012

Line Of Defense: Arguments In Afghan Attack Case

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 8:41 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. Murder charges have been filed against the U.S. Army Sergeant accused of killing 17 Afghan men, women and children. Now, an investigative officer will decide whether there's enough evidence to go forward with a court martial. NPR's Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, walks us through the legal challenges ahead for the defense and the prosecution.

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U.S.
2:00 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Details Still Emerging In Afghanistan Shooting

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've spent much of the weekend trying to understand a nightmare moment of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. An American soldier apparently walked off his post and killed 16 Afghan men, women and children. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales - we know his name now - is being held in solitary confinement in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been gathering details of the shooter's life, and he's on the line now. And, Tom, what have you learned?

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Afghanistan
10:01 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Killings A Blow To U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, stands outside a military base in Panjwai, Kandahar province, south of Kabul, on Sunday.
Allauddin Khan AP

Originally published on Tue March 13, 2012 6:25 am

The killings of some 16 civilians in Afghanistan on Sunday allegedly by a U.S. soldier are raising new questions about U.S. military strategy: whether the surge of American troops worked, and whether the U.S. troops have won over the Afghan people or alienated them.

The place where the killings happened was a "no-go zone" for American and even Afghan troops as recently as two years ago — it was Taliban country.

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National Security
2:49 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

Experts: A Strike On Iran Poses Many Challenges

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addresses a meeting in Tehran on Thursday. Khamenei is a staunch defender of Iran's nuclear program.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 7:12 am

The question hanging over Washington for months has been this: Will Israel strike the Iranian nuclear program?

The Obama administration seems to have bought some time this week after rounds of meetings and speeches with Israeli officials in Washington.

Still, the president assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will do all in its power to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

So the military option is still on the table.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

In Mock Village, A New Afghan Mission Takes Shape

Lt. Col. Mark Schmitt, who will be among a group of U.S. military trainers heading to Afghanistan soon, calls out orders during a mock attack on the model Afghan village at the U.S. military base in Fort Polk, La.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:59 am

At the Fort Polk military base in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the Army has created a miniature version of Afghanistan — with mock villages and American soldiers working alongside Afghan role-players.

This is the training ground for a new American approach in Afghanistan as the U.S. begins to look ahead to the goal of bringing home the U.S. forces by the end of 2014. The idea is that Afghan forces have to be good enough to defend their country against the Taliban, and to make that happen, the U.S. Army is creating small U.S. training teams at Fort Polk.

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National Security
3:14 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Afghan Violence Raises Questions About U.S. Strategy

The latest violence in Afghan has raised doubts about the U.S. strategy. Here, Afghan demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogans as they carry a wounded man during a protest in the Western city of Herat on Feb. 24.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 6:27 pm

The violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan has called into question the American exit strategy, which is set to play out steadily over the next three years.

It was only a few weeks ago that the second-ranking American military officer in Afghanistan laid out a new phase of that strategy. Small groups of U.S. advisers would team up with larger Afghan units to train them, said Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

The first of these U.S. assistance teams will head into Afghanistan this spring to train Afghan police and soldiers.

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National Security
1:35 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

As China's Military Grows, U.S. Assesses Risks

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama greeted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and called for cooperation between the two nations.

Later in the day, the Chinese vice president crossed the Potomac to visit the Pentagon, where the U-S military may hope for cooperation, but has to plan for possible confrontation.

The Pentagon's new budget request, unveiled Monday, signals a shift for the US military, with a greater focus on the Pacific.

China is building more ships and aircraft, and is now patrolling hundreds of miles out into the Pacific.

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National Security
12:19 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

In Afghan War, U.S. Prepares To Redefine The Mission

The U.S. military wants Afghan troops to begin taking the lead role in combat operations. Here, Afghan cadets who are joining the army are shown at their graduation ceremony on Dec. 18 in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Qais Usyan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 6:03 am

American commanders in Afghanistan are preparing for a major shift in their mission this year.

U.S. troops are expected to move away from their lead role in combat operations in most areas. Instead, they'll advise Afghan forces to take the lead in both operations and security duties throughout much of Afghanistan.

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Middle East
8:57 am
Thu January 19, 2012

U.S. To Israel: Give Iranian Sanctions A Chance

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey (left), is in Israel to talk about the growing tension with Iran. Here, Dempsey speaks with Israel's top military officer, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.
Virginia Mayo AP

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 8:22 am

The nation's top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is in Israel where he's expected to send a clear message: Don't attack Iran, and let the tougher sanctions take hold.

Dempsey's trip to Israel was scheduled weeks ago, but it comes at a particularly sensitive time. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the key route for oil shipments, and has stepped up its naval activities.

An Iranian nuclear scientist was recently killed by a drive-by assassin, and Iran is blaming Israel.

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National Security
3:44 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Can Iran Close The World's Most Important Oil Route?

A member of Iran's navy participates in a drill on Dec. 28, 2011, in the Sea of Oman. Tehran is threatening to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in retaliation for new sanctions by the West.
Ali Mohammadi AP

Originally published on Wed January 11, 2012 8:24 pm

As tensions rise between Iran and the West, Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for one-fifth of the world's oil. Is it more than an empty threat?

"The simple answer is: Yes, they can block it," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CBS's Face the Nation on Jan. 8.

"They've invested in capabilities that for a short period of time block the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Critics Question Pentagon's New Strategy

For two decades, the Pentagon has maintained that it could fight two wars at the same time. But as the Obama administration releases its new military strategy Thursday, some question whether the Pentagon will abandon that long-held commitment.

An early draft of the Pentagon's new strategy, The New York Times reported, said the military would only be able to win one war and spoil an adversary's efforts in a second war.

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Iraq
10:01 pm
Mon January 2, 2012

Marine Sergeant On Trial For 2005 Deaths In Iraq

Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich talks to the media with his attorney Neal Puckett (left) watching on after a 2010 pretrial hearing at Camp Pendleton in California. Wuterich is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005.
Chris Carlson AP

One of the more controversial episodes of the Iraq war will be revisited in a military courtroom in California this week.

In November of 2005, a Marine squad killed 24 Iraqis, some of them women and children in the village of Haditha. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich led the squad of Marines, and on Wednesday he'll face voluntary manslaughter charges at Camp Pendleton.

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Iraq
10:01 pm
Mon December 26, 2011

No U.S. Troops, But An Army Of Contractors In Iraq

As many as 5,000 private security contractors will be protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq. The U.S. Embassy compound (above) and several consulates will have about 15,000 workers, making it the largest diplomatic operation abroad.
Lucas Jackson Reuters/Landov

The U.S. troops have left Iraq, and U.S. diplomats will now be the face of America in a country that remains extremely volatile.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, along with several consulates, will have some 15,000 workers, making it the largest U.S. diplomatic operation abroad. Those diplomats will be protected by a private army consisting of as many as 5,000 security contractors who will carry assault weapons and fly armed helicopters.

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Leaving Iraq
8:14 am
Fri December 16, 2011

As The Iraq War Ends, Reassessing The U.S. Surge

Gen. David Petraeus (center, with no gun) walks with troops in 2007 in Baqouba, Iraq. The area had recently been seized back from al-Qaida control with help from U.S. forces who were part of the surge. The surge is widely credited with changing the course of the war; now, some experts are debating how much credit it deserves.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Here's the conventional wisdom about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq: By 2006, Iraq was in chaos. Many Americans called for the U.S. to get out. Instead, President Bush sent in 30,000 additional troops. By the end of 2007, Iraq started to stabilize, and the move took on an almost mythic status.

In 2008, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke at the Republican National Convention about the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying that, "by every measure, the surge of troops into Iraq has worked."

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Iraq
2:39 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

U.S. Troops (But Not Their TVs) Prepare To Leave Iraq

A day after leaving Iraq last week, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division lined up their armored vehicles near Kuwait City, Kuwait. Armored equipment will not stay behind after troops leave Iraq, but other property may.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 7:34 am

The final American troops are set to leave Iraq in a matter of days. Just a few thousand remain, and they will be heading south toward Kuwait — the starting point for a war that began nearly nine years ago.

The last American military unit out of Iraq will be part of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The division fought in some of the war's toughest battles and suffered nearly 300 killed.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Does Supercommittee Failure Imperil Pentagon?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15. He said the proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget would lead to a hollow force.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 12:46 pm

The congressional supercommittee's failure to act is supposed to trigger hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts for the Pentagon starting in 2013. But even cuts that large don't come close to cutbacks in military spending in years past.

The Pentagon already plans to cut about $500 billion from its budget over 10 years. Now, it faces another $500 billion in cuts. For the military, that's the worst case: 10 years, $1 trillion in cuts.

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National Security
10:00 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Veterans, Civilians Don't See Eye To Eye On War

Saturday begins the 11th year in the war in Afghanistan, and a new poll shows that veterans and the general public have different views on war, the value of military service — and even patriotism.

David Gilkey NPR

Veterans and the general public have different views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the value of military service, and even the subject of patriotism, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The United States has never seen a moment like this one, the Pew Center says. Sustained combat for a decade, and a small fraction of American men and women in uniform.

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National Security
2:09 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Gap Grows Between Military, Civilians On War

A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows a significant divergence on attitudes toward war and military service between members of the military and civilians.

David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri October 7, 2011 2:42 pm

As the U.S. marks the 10th anniversary of its involvement in the Afghan war this week, a Pew Research Center report shows some wide differences between the way military members and the general public view the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pew researchers talked to nearly 4,000 people, split almost evenly between military veterans and civilians. Paul Taylor, the editor of the study, said he wanted to explore this unique moment in American history.

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National Security
10:01 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

For A Marine Hero, A Medal Of Honor

Marine Dakota Meyer poses during his deployment in Kunar province, Afghanistan. President Obama is awarding him the Medal of Honor on Thursday, making him the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.
Anonymous AP

Shortly after dawn on a September morning in 2009, American and Afghan troops set out on patrol along a rocky mile-long stretch in eastern Afghanistan. They were heading to a small village for a routine meeting with tribal elders.

Suddenly, everything went wrong.

Cpl. Dakota Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, who had stayed behind with the vehicles, heard small arms fire in the distance and knew instantly it was an ambush. Rodriguez-Chavez then heard an officer yelling for help on the radio.

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Closing Walter Reed
10:01 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

In 2007, Walter Reed Was The Army's Wakeup Call

At Walter Reed, Oscar Olguin and his family were visited by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush. But Olguin says that when he left the hospital, he had to fend for himself.
Courtesy of Oscar Olguin

For more than a century, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was known as the hospital that catered to presidents and generals. Eisenhower was treated and died there. So too did Generals "Black Jack" Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall.

But in recent years, Walter Reed was shorthand for scandal.

A 2007 series that dominated the front page of The Washington Post told of decrepit housing and wounded soldiers left to fend for themselves.

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Closing Walter Reed
9:09 am
Mon August 15, 2011

When Will Closing Walter Reed Pay Off? Maybe 2018

BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi, and other member of the commission raise their hands in favor of closing Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington during a base closing hearing Aug. 25, 2005 in Arlington, Va.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 31, 2011 4:08 pm

When the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was slated for closure back in 1995, the goals were to improve care for wounded soldiers, and to save money. The final patients left this past week.

But with closing Walter Reed now estimated to cost more than $1 billion more than originally predicted, it could take many years before the military will realize any savings.

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National Security
6:00 am
Sat August 13, 2011

What Crashed Our Hypersonic Drone?

Pentagon officials are investigating what happened to its Falcon Hypersonic aircraft that crashed into the Pacific Ocean last week. The Falcon is the fastest aircraft ever built and can fly 13,000 miles per hour. It's designed to carry a conventional warhead against any target within an hour. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports.

Afghanistan
10:01 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Military Faces Challenge In Rebuilding SEAL Team 6

The Taliban attack that claimed the lives of nearly two dozen members of the elite and secretive unit called SEAL Team 6 places a huge burden on the Special Forces community.

Officials say with a roughly 10 percent loss, they may have to rotate SEALs in before their downtime is complete, or pull SEALs from staff and training positions. Longer term, it will mean juggling the new SEAL Team 6 members with veterans.

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Afghanistan
6:00 am
Sun August 7, 2011

Navy SEALs Mourn Heavy Loss In Afghanistan

The Navy SEAL community is mourning the loss of more than two dozen members. They were among 30 Americans killed Saturday when their helicopter came under fire during an operation in eastern Afghanistan. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports.

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