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.

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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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.

The Pentagon's budget for next year would cut the size of the Armed Forces and begin to rein in expensive benefits, including health care. The Army would be reduced to its lowest level in years.

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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.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will outline budget priorities during a news conference on Monday. A key question for the Pentagon: How to curb growth of military pay and benefits?

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.

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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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And I'm Robert Siegel. In Afghanistan, the U.S. is in a political standoff with the government of President Hamid Karzai. At issue is what's called a bilateral security agreement that would govern U.S. troops if they stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. President Obama addressed the issue earlier this week in his State of the Union speech.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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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And I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with the rising violence in both Syria and Iraq and American military options in the region. A group linked to al-Qaida has been fighting in Syria, battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad. That group has also crossed the border into Iraq where it is fighting for control of Ramadi and Fallujah, cities where hundreds of Americans died years ago.

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.

A compromise defense bill is making its way through Congress. The authorization measure deals with everything from sexual assault in the military to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to operations in Afghanistan.

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.

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.

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.

Some 3,000 Afghan elders will assemble on Thursday in Kabul to consider a new security agreement with the U.S. The document will spell out the rules for American forces in Afghanistan troops after their combat mission ends in December 2014. U.S. officials say between 6,000 and 9,000 US troops would remain to train Afghan security forces and conduct counter-terror missions against al-Qaeda and other anti-government forces. That counter-terror mission remains a sticking point, though most other issues — like potential criminal liability of Americans in Afghanistan — have been resolved.

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The poppy crop in Afghanistan has hit record levels, a sign that the drug trade there continues to rise. That's according to the latest numbers from a United Nations report out today. The U.S. warns that a boost in opium production will provide more money for Taliban insurgents.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, those rising numbers come despite billions of dollars spent to eradicate the poppy plant.

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.

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban is reported to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike. Hakimullah Mehsud's group is believed responsible for attacks across Pakistan. He is also implicated in the attack that killed seven CIA employees at a CIA base in Afghanistan in late 2009. Mehsud has been reported to have been killed before, but sources are confident this time.

In a case that caused a major stir last year, a YouTube video surfaced showing Marines in Afghanistan joking and laughing as they urinated on three dead Taliban fighters. The Marines involved in the July 2011 incident in the southern province of Helmand were disciplined.

It seemed the case was over, but now it has taken a strange twist. There are allegations that the Marines' top officer, Gen. James Amos, illegally interfered with the judicial proceedings in an effort to ensure harsher penalties.

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Another fighting season is coming to an end in Afghanistan and American and Afghan leaders are trying to determine whether U.S. troops will remain beyond the next fighting season in 2014. Over the next few weeks, Afghan tribal leaders will sit down and debate whether to support a new security agreement with the Americans.

Female Marines have been training for the past month at Camp Lejeune, trying to make it through infantry training. They've got a month to go, including a 12-mile hike with a heavy pack. They're the first ones ever to handle the training, part of an effort to integrate women into combat positions by 2016.

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The remains of four American service members were returned yesterday to Dover Air Force Base. They were killed in Afghanistan.

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Syria's chemical weapons are very far from being removed, but authorities say they've made a start. Secretary of State John Kerry says he's pleased with the pace of what has happened so far.

Last night, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon laid out a plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons program by the end of next June.

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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The FBI offered up more evidence today about the Washington Navy Yard shooting last week in which 12 people were killed, along with the shooter. They released surveillance videotape of the gunman, Aaron Alexis, inside the building. They also confirmed that Alexis acted alone and that he was delusional. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

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