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
11:51 am
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 9:39 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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National Security
2:31 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Women In Combat: Obstacles Remain As Exclusion Policy Ends

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 9:02 am

Wednesday's deadline for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to submit plans for ending the policy that keeps women from serving in ground combat positions will open up more than 200,000 positions in the military to them. But the change won't end questions about the role of women in the armed forces.

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The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences
4:30 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Sequester Has Air Force Clipping Its Wings

To save money, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina is keeping some of its pilots out of the sky.
Airman 1st Class Aubrey White U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Sat May 11, 2013 11:58 am

The Pentagon says the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration could leave the U.S. with a military that is simply unprepared for the most challenging combat missions. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress in April that the military is eating its seed corn.

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World
3:24 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 6:48 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
12:27 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 8:23 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
1:53 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 8:19 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
2:21 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 8:55 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
2:09 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 8:54 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
2:27 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 7:43 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
4:46 am
Sun February 24, 2013

Israel Restores Wetlands; Birds Make It Their Winter Home

Cranes fly at sunset above the Hula Valley of northern Israel in January. Millions of birds pass through the area as they migrate south every winter from Europe and Asia to Africa. Some now stay in the Hula Valley for the entire winter.
Menahem Kahana AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 7:45 am

Like many countries, Israel tried to drain many of its swamplands, then realized it was destroying wildlife habitats. So the country reversed course, and has been restoring the wetlands of the Hula Valley in the north.

The effort has had a huge and rather noisy payoff. Unlike many birding sites, where the creatures take off when you approach them, you can practically touch the cranes that inhabit the Hula Valley.

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Middle East
4:33 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 7:49 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
4:12 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 8:40 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
4:31 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 7:48 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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World
1:41 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 11:51 am

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
4:06 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 8:17 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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National Security
2:34 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 6:51 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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National Security
2:45 am
Wed January 2, 2013

How Good Is The World's Most Expensive Fighter Jet?

The U.S. Navy version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter conducts a test flight on Feb. 11, 2011, over the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The F-35 is the fighter jet of the future for the U.S. military, but its high cost and many delays have raised questions.
U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 2:34 pm

First of two parts

After years on the drawing boards and in testing labs, a new fighter plane is entering the U.S. arsenal. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is supposed to help the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines replace their fleet of aging aircraft.

But this plane has become the most expensive military procurement program in history. While critics continue to carp about the cost, the plane is now in the skies, and the military says it's the lynchpin for future defense strategies.

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The Impact of War
1:33 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Vets Flock To Colleges ... But How Are They Doing?

Maralynn Bernstein (bottom left), the veterans services coordinator for the University of Arizona, confers with Cody Nicholls, director of the Veterans Education and Transition Services Center, at the school's Veterans Center in Tucson.
Larry Abramson NPR

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 9:18 am

Record numbers of veterans are returning home from war and heading to college. The biggest draw: the generous benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which in three short years has helped 860,000 vets go to school.

But there's still little known about how these students are doing.

For years, Sarah Yaw has been working with veterans at Cayuga Community College, a small school in rural, upstate New York. She took a leave in 2009, around the time the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect. When she returned to the school, she found a dramatic change.

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Solve This
3:40 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 7:00 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
3:32 am
Fri October 12, 2012

Pentagon Revising Cyber Rules Of Engagement

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 4:36 am

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
3:38 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Romney, Obama Surrogates Clash Over Military Strategy

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 4:16 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
4:02 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 5:44 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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National Security
2:37 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 8:04 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
10:51 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 8:57 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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All Tech Considered
1:38 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Report From The Drone Convention: Unmanned Vehicles Find New Uses

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Brian Bills, a flight operations analyst for Lockheed Martin, demonstrates the Procerus VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) Flight System — a surveillance drone for commercial, civil and military customers — at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Las Vegas. (Watch a demo video.)
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 2:33 pm

Drone makers and robotics manufacturers are looking for — and finding — new uses for devices that were once limited to the worlds of science and the military.

After a decade of explosive growth, thanks largely to the post-Sept. 11 demand from the military for unmanned vehicles, the industry is eagerly awaiting the opening of a new front: the domestic drone market.

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