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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2:52am

Fri April 11, 2014
National Security

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

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 2:38 pm

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

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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3:55pm

Thu March 27, 2014
News

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

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 6:03 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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4:05am

Thu March 27, 2014
Around the Nation

Air Force To Release Results Of Cheating Probe

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 6:56 am

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Lt. General Stephen Wilson report Thursday on the results of an investigation involving aobut 100 nuclear missile launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

3:13pm

Thu March 20, 2014
News

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

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:20 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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4:02am

Tue March 18, 2014
U.S.

Decades Later, A Medal Of Honor For Hispanic-American Hero

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:26 am

Santiago Erevia is one of only three living soldiers receiving a Medal of Honor on March 18. Behind him is a photo projection of his younger self in uniform.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two-dozen soldiers whose service ranged from World War II to the Vietnam War. These soldiers are being commemorated after congress mandated a review to make sure that no one was overlooked because of prejudice.

One of them is Santiago Erevia, who risked his life on a May afternoon in 1969, charging toward bunkers held by the North Vietnamese.

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3:30pm

Mon March 17, 2014
News

General Takes Plea Deal In Sexual Assault Case

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 5:33 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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3:09pm

Mon February 24, 2014
National Security

Hagel Proposes Cuts To Size And Spending of Armed Forces

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 7:02 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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3:30pm

Fri February 21, 2014
National Security

New Military Ethics Chief Will Face A Full Plate

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 6:53 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.

4:16am

Thu February 6, 2014
National Security

Hagel Concerned By Ethical Lapses In Armed Forces

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 6:59 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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4:16pm

Wed January 29, 2014
National Security

A Medal Of Valor, 30 Years In Coming

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 5:26 pm

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

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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3:34pm

Wed January 22, 2014
Afghanistan

Pentagon, White House Are At Odds Over Afghanistan

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 7:01 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.

1:26pm

Fri January 17, 2014
The Two-Way

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
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey on the situation in Iraq
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey on the looming budget crisis
  • Gen. Martin Dempsey on his 'sacred obligation' to the troops

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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4:29pm

Tue January 14, 2014
The Two-Way

Gen. Dempsey Disputes Gates' Characterization Of Obama

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 6:58 pm

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

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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9:48am

Sat January 11, 2014
National Security

Gates Memoir Tests Civilian-Military Rules Of Engagement

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 11:52 am

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

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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2:24am

Fri December 27, 2013
National Security

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

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 7:06 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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