Larry Abramson

Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Prior to his current role, Abramson was NPR's Education Correspondent covering a wide variety of issues related to education, from federal policy to testing to instructional techniques in the classroom. His reporting focused on the impact of for-profit colleges and universities, and on the role of technology in the classroom. He made a number of trips to New Orleans to chart the progress of school reform there since Hurricane Katrina. Abramson also covers a variety of news stories beyond the education beat.

In 2006, Abramson returned to the education beat after spending nine years covering national security and technology issues for NPR. Since 9/11, Abramson has covered telecommunications regulation, computer privacy, legal issues in cyberspace, and legal issues related to the war on terrorism.

During the late 1990s, Abramson was involved in several special projects related to education. He followed the efforts of a school in Fairfax County, Virginia, to include severely disabled students in regular classroom settings. He joined the National Desk reporting staff in 1997.

For seven years prior to his position as a reporter on the National Desk, Abramson was senior editor for NPR's National Desk. His department was responsible for approximately 25 staff reporters across the United States, five editors in Washington, and news bureaus in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The National Desk also coordinated domestic news coverage with news departments at many of NPR's member stations. The desk doubled in size during Abramson's tenure. He oversaw the development of specialized beats in general business, high-technology, workplace issues, small business, education, and criminal justice.

Abramson joined NPR in 1985 as a production assistant with Morning Edition. He moved to the National Desk, where he served for two years as Western editor. From there, he became the deputy science editor with NPR's Science Unit, where he helped win a duPont-Columbia Award as editor of a special series on Black Americans and AIDS.

Prior to his work at NPR, Abramson was a freelance reporter in San Francisco and worked with Voice of America in California and in Washington, D.C.

He has a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley. Abramson also studied overseas at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and at the Free University in Berlin, Germany.

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Parallels
12:51 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Women In Combat: Some Lessons From Israel's Military

Soldiers of Israel's 33rd Caracal Battalion take part in a graduation march in the northern part of the southern Israeli Negev desert on March 13. The Caracal was formed in 2004 with the chief purpose of giving women a chance to serve in a true combat role.
Menahem Kahana AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 10:39 am

As the U.S. moves to open up combat positions to women, it's catching up with other countries that have been doing it for years.

But the experience in these countries, including Israel, suggests that access to combat jobs doesn't lead directly to equal treatment within the ranks.

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World
4:32 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Why Chemical Weapons Have Been A Red Line Since World War I

Soldiers with the British Machine Gun Corps wear gas masks in 1916 during World War I's first Battle of the Somme.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 7:48 pm

President Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons could change the U.S. response to the Syrian civil war. But why this focus on chemical weapons when conventional weapons have killed tens of thousands in Syria?

The answer can be traced back to the early uses of poison gas nearly a century ago.

In World War I, trench warfare led to stalemates — and to new weapons meant to break through the lines.

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The Two-Way
12:23 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

With Obama In Ramallah, Palestinians Take To The Streets

Palestinians protest as U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinians Authority President Mahmud Abbas meet in Ramallah on Thursday.
Ilia Yefimovich Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 9:23 am

NPR's Larry Abramson is covering President Obama's visit to the Middle East. He sends this dispatch from the West Bank.

There were a lot of irritated Palestinians in the streets of Ramallah today. But it's hard to pinpoint the cause. Were they mad at President Obama, at Israel? Or were they angry at themselves?

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Middle East
2:53 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Israelis, Palestinians Spar Over Controversial Settlement

A Jewish settler looks at the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim from the E-1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem on Dec. 5. The Israelis are planning a controversial housing project in E-1.
Sebastian Scheiner AP

Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 9:19 am

In practical terms, a project known as E-1 would provide 3,000 or so new housing units for Israelis in an area between east Jerusalem — which the Palestinians hope will someday be their capital — and the large Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

But numbers can be deceiving: Palestinians are renewing their objections to the growing number of Israeli settlements, and many fear E-1 could tip the balance in a way that makes an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement impossible.

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The Two-Way
3:21 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

After Weeks Of Wrangling, An Israeli Government Takes Shape

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a meeting in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on Thursday. Netanyahu has reached agreement with other factions to form a coalition government following an election in January.
Gali Tibbon AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 9:55 am

Israel appears to have a new government, nearly two months after parliamentary elections.

Since the voting in January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that just would not fit.

If he included traditional allies, such as the religious parties, he would close out a chance of forming a government with a popular political newcomer, Yair Lapid.

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Shots - Health News
3:09 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Can Kidney Transplants Ease Strain On Gaza's Health System?

A Palestinian dialysis patient is treated at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City in 2010. Many kidney patients in Gaza struggle to get proper dialysis therapy because machines are often overbooked.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 9:54 am

It's no picnic being a kidney patient even in the best conditions. But coming in for dialysis in a place like the Gaza Strip calls for a special kind of patience.

Years of war have placed a constant stress on the health system there. Thanks to a host of factors, Gaza's main hospital, Shifa Hospital, regularly faces supply shortages of medications that kidney patients need to manage nausea and other symptoms.

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Middle East
3:27 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Palestinians Still Feel The Squeeze Of The Restrictions On Gaza

A Palestinian laborer works at the site of a residential construction project funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Mar. 21, 2012.
Said Khatib AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 8:43 am

The streets of Gaza are busy, but they are also crumbling.

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has maintained tight limits on shipments of anything that could be used for military purposes. That includes basic building materials that could be used for bunkers and rocket launching sites.

Ask businessman Ali Abdel Aal what's the toughest thing for him to find, and he'll tell you "cement and gravel."

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Middle East
5:33 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

A West Bank Story, Told Through Palestinian Eyes

Emad Burnat, a Palestinian who co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras, displays the cameras destroyed by Israeli settlers and security forces. The film focuses on a Palestinian village protesting Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank.
Kino Lorbor Inc. AP

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 8:49 am

The Academy Award-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras tells the story of Bil'in, a modest Palestinian village perilously close to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

After the Israeli government began putting up its West Bank separation barrier, Bil'in resident Emad Burnat picked up a video camera, and in 2005 began a multiyear documentary project.

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Middle East
5:12 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Women In Prayer Shawls Detained At Judaism's Holiest Site

Rabbi Susan Silverman (center, left), the sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman, along with her teenage daughter Hallel Abramowitz (center, right), are arrested by Israeli police as they leave the Western Wall in Jerusalem, on Monday.
Jim Hollander EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 9:40 am

Police in Jerusalem on Monday detained 10 women for wearing the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl traditionally worn by men, while praying at the Western Wall.

The Women of the Wall have been fighting for years for permission to worship in the manner that men do at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism for prayer. The stone structure is part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.

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The Two-Way
6:09 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

How Do Israeli And Palestinian Textbooks Treat The Other Side?

Palestinian students attend a class in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.
Majdi Mohammed AP

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 8:48 am

There was some good news and bad news in a three-year study that tried to take an objective look at bias in Israeli and Palestinian textbooks directed against "the other."

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Business
5:38 am
Mon February 4, 2013

SodaStream Criticized For West Bank Plant

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 8:48 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And let's think about the Super Bowl once again. Last night was big for the Ravens and for an Israeli company called SodaStream. It ran its first Super Bowl ad.

The original spot it hoped to air was rejected. And as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, there are much bigger controversies facing that company.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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World
3:16 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Israeli Election Rekindles Debate Over Military Service

Ultra-Orthodox Jews are not required to perform military service in Israel, and the issue is subject to intense debate following the country's election last week. Here, ultra-Orthodox men sign up for alternate civilian service earlier this month.
Baz Ratner Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Sun February 3, 2013 12:51 pm

The rise of a new Israeli political party after last week's elections has set the stage for renewed conflict over the country's military draft.

That new party, Yesh Atid, or "There is a Future," campaigned on a promise to draft thousands of ultra-Orthodox students who are currently exempt from military service.

And with the number of ultra-Orthodox students in Israel on the rise given the community's high birth rates, this longstanding debate has become a critical post-election issue.

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Middle East
5:12 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

An Israeli Political Newcomer, Who May Soon Be An Insider

Yair Lapid and his new political party, There Is a Future, got the second-most votes in Israel's election on Tuesday.
Oliver Weiken EPA /Landov

Originally published on Sun January 27, 2013 9:17 am

Israel's surprisingly close parliamentary elections Tuesday have brought political attention to a man accustomed to the bright lights of television: former journalist and media personality Yair Lapid.

His Yesh Atid — or There Is a Future — Party got 19 seats in parliament, making it the second-largest voting bloc behind Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, which won 31 seats.

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Middle East
5:14 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Netanyahu Must Turn Fractured Results Into A Government

Originally published on Sun January 27, 2013 9:17 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. In Israel last night a surprisingly close election. Voters appear to have reelected Prime Minister Netanyahu for another term. That was expected. But Netanyahu's right wing alliance suffered serious losses. Centrist and left wing parties defied opinion polls and won half the seats in parliament. As NPR's Larry Abramson reports from Jerusalem, the prime minister will now have to turn these fractured results into a government.

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National Security
3:32 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

At $130 Million A Plane, Critics Question The Cost Of The F-35

Visitors look at a Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet at the Singapore Airshow in 2010. The cost of the plane keeps on rising and is now $130 million or more per plane, depending on the model.
Roslan Rahman AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 7:51 pm

Second of two parts

In a mile-long building on the edge of Fort Worth, Texas, an assembly line is taking shape to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed Martin, which got the contract to build the jet back in 2001, is slowly cranking up production. It's hard to keep a plane current, when it takes so many years to develop.

But Lockheed's Kevin McCormack says the F-35 is designed to change as technology evolves.

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Around the Nation
5:15 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Waves Pound Maryland Coast As Hurricane Nears

Audie Cornish speaks with Larry Abramson in Ocean City, Md., about the impact of Hurricane Sandy. The storm has already destroyed the town's fishing pier and sent floodwaters pouring into low-lying areas

Presidential Race
5:12 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

How Big Should The U.S. Navy Be?

Navy mine countermeasure ships line up in August to conduct a replenishment-at-sea during Middle East Gulf naval exercises in this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, 5th Fleet.
Toni Burton AP

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 6:25 pm

In many of his campaign speeches, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney likes to chide the Obama administration for cutting military spending. And Romney says one force in particular is suffering from a lack of resources.

"The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916," he says in many of his stump speeches. Romney promises to rebuild the Navy until it reaches 350 ships. But does a bigger Navy make the U.S. more secure?

Echoes Of Reagan

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Solve This
4:16 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Romney's Defense Plans Call For Higher Spending

U.S. Marines drive amphibious armored personnel carriers in the Philippines on Oct. 9, as part of the annual joint exercises with Philippine counterparts.
Jay Directo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 8:00 pm

One area where President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney clearly disagree is defense spending. The president wants less, Romney wants more. But the difference in their approaches is about more than money.

When Romney looks at the future, he sees a series of threats: from unrest in the Middle East to a nuclear North Korea to what he sees as a defiant Russia.

Speaking to veterans in Virginia's Fairfax County last month, Romney blamed the Obama administration for cuts that will go into effect unless Congress and the president act.

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Business
5:36 am
Fri October 12, 2012

Pentagon Revising Cyber Rules Of Engagement

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with rules of engagement.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Last night, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued these words of warning: foreign cyber actors - he said - are probing America's critical infrastructure networks.

As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, Panetta says the Pentagon is revising its cyber rules of engagement, so it can respond to those attacks.

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It's All Politics
4:38 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Romney, Obama Surrogates Clash Over Military Strategy

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:16 pm

The Romney campaign is putting more meat on the bones of its defense policy, and the result is a muscular, almost hawkish posture.

Dov Zakheim, Mitt Romney's special adviser for foreign policy and national security, went toe-to-toe with Richard Verma, who plays a similar role for the Obama campaign, at a forum Wednesday.

The two tussled for over an hour in a foreign policy debate of sorts at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

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Politics
5:02 pm
Sat October 6, 2012

Defense Companies Hold Off On Pink Slips, For Now

Air Force F-22 Raptors, made by Lockheed Martin, are prepared for flight operations at Langley Air Force Base. Despite the looming defense spending cuts that would go into effect in January if Congress does not pass a deficit reduction plan, Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors announced this week they would not issue layoff notices.
Gary C. Knapp AP

Originally published on Sat October 6, 2012 6:44 pm

Major defense companies said this week they will not send out layoff notices to warn of big job cuts in January, taking away the prospect of embarrassing layoff notices right before the November elections.

That's led to charges that the White House overstepped when it told the industry the notices are not needed.

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Politics
4:46 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Military Troops Request Fewer Absentee Ballots

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Compared with 2008, far fewer American troops are asking for absentee ballots this fall. A new report blames the Pentagon for failing to provide enough help. The Department of Defense says the figures do not reflect the efforts it's making. NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

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National Security
3:37 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Army Seeks To Curb Rising Tide Of Suicides

U.S. troops from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment patrol at dawn in Kandalay, Afghanistan on Aug. 4, 2011. A worldwide stand down for troops to take part in suicide prevention training Thursday is part of the Army's response to an alarming suicide rate of nearly one per day.
Romeo Gacad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 9:04 pm

At Fort Myer, Va., a small Army base across the river from Washington, D.C., Chaplain Mark Worrell is talking to about 100 soldiers, reciting the grim numbers.

"This year, 2012, there have been more suicides in the Army than combat deaths," he says.

Worrell paces in front of the stage in a small auditorium and talks with the soldiers for more than an hour about the warning signs of suicide. He asks them what they would do if a friend starting selling his tools and lost interest in his favorite hobbies.

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National Security
5:40 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Automatic Budget Cuts Still Loom Over Defense Dept.

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 6:05 pm

Republicans continue to press the Obama administration for more details on how they would cut billions from the defense budget if sequestration is put into place in January. The Department of Defense will now have to explain why it has not planned for an event that is becoming increasingly likely.

National Security
11:51 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Can Counseling Complicate Your Security Clearance?

To get security clearance for jobs in the military or the government, applicants must say whether they've undergone counseling in recent years. Some experts say this question — known as Question 21 — is discouraging people from applying for jobs or from getting help.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 9:57 pm

Jennifer Norris was a devoted member of the Maine National Guard.

"I was ecstatic. I absolutely loved serving in the military," she says.

Norris still wanted a career in the Guard even after she was sexually assaulted by other members of the military. After she was raped, she says she got psychological counseling.

But then it came time to renew the security clearance she needed for her job as a satellite communications technician. One question on the form — Question 21 — asked whether she'd sought help from a mental health professional over the past seven years.

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National Security
4:27 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Book On Bin Laden Raid Under Pentagon Pressure

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 5:47 pm

A member of the team that attacked bin Laden's compound in Pakistan last year has written a book about the raid. The book is being published under a pseudonym. But already there are questions about whether the author violated Pentagon rules by failing to run the book by the military first.

Around the Nation
4:31 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Why Did The Hypersonic 'Waverider' Crash?

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 6:02 pm

The U.S. Air Force is investigating what happened to the X-51 Waverider aircraft that fell into the Pacific last week. The X-51 is part of an Air Force/DARPA research project trying to build a "scramjet" engine that will work at hypersonic speeds. NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

National Security
6:25 am
Thu August 2, 2012

Drones: From War Weapon To Homemade Toy

In this Jan. 8, 2009, photo provided by the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's Department, a small Draganflyer X6 drone makes a test flight in Mesa County, Colo. with a Forward Looking Infrared payload. The drone, which was on loan to the sheriff's department from the manufacturer, measures about 36 inches from rotor tip to rotor tip, weights just over two pounds.
Mesa County Sheriff's Dept. AP

Originally published on Thu August 2, 2012 4:19 pm

Drones transformed the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. But their use has been extremely limited in U.S. skies. The Federal Aviation Administration essentially bans the commercial use of drones, and government use is still highly restricted.

But that's changing.

For a long time, drones, which are formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, were exotic, expensive and out of reach for all but military users. Today, however, a clever hobbyist can have his own eye in the sky.

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National Security
5:15 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Defense Cuts: How Do You Buy 1.8 Submarines?

The Defense Department planned to buy two Virginia-class submarines, like the USS Virginia, per year. A 10 percent across-the-board cut would fund only 1.8 submarines, making the purchase impossible.
Raytheon Co.

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 5:19 pm

Congress created a monster when it decided that the entire government will face across-the-board cuts in January, unless an agreement on deficit reduction is reached.

The deadline for the automatic spending cuts — called sequestration — is now approaching, and the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry say those cuts would be horrible.

The Pentagon, perhaps the world's premier planning agency, views the threat of a 10 percent budget cut like an invasion from Mars. It's too awful, too scary and, as Pentagon press secretary George Little puts it, too "absurd."

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Law
3:03 am
Tue July 17, 2012

At An Air Force Base, Allegations Of Sexual Assault

In this June 22 image made from video, female airmen march during graduation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A widening sex scandal has rocked Lackland, one of the nation's busiest military training centers. A dozen instructors are being investigated for allegations ranging from abuse to rape.
John L. Mone AP

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 3:05 pm

Opening statements will be made Tuesday in the trial of a former Air Force instructor accused of rape and sexual assault of the young trainees in his care.

Staff Sgt. Luis Walker faces 28 charges and could be sentenced to life in prison. A total of 12 Air Force instructors are under investigation for allegedly abusing recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, the main Air Force training center.

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