About POGO

Mark Thompson headshot profile image

Mark Thompson

National Security Analyst

mthompson@pogo.org |

Year Started At POGO: 2017

Thompson has been covering U.S. national security for four decades, including from 1994 to 2016 as senior correspondent and deputy Washington bureau chief at TIME Magazine.

Mark worked at TIME from 1994 to 2016. Before that, he covered military affairs for the late Knight-Ridder Newspapers (including the Detroit Free Press, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the San Jose Mercury-News) for eight years.

Prior to Knight-Ridder, Mark reported from Washington for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for seven years. During that time, he and his paper were awarded the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles on an uncorrected design flaw aboard Fort Worth-built Bell helicopters that had killed nearly 250 U.S. servicemen.

UH-60 BlackHawk

Whirlybird-Brained: U.S. Making Wrong Chopper Choice for Afghanistan

June 25, 2018

When it comes to winning America’s longest war, prevailing isn’t the top priority

Bikini Atoll

Gambling On History: President Trump’s Pentagon Says Nuclear Weapons Save Lives

June 18, 2018

It’s a dubious public relations pitch

Beechcraft AT-6

Back To The Future: The Pentagon Considers Flying Prop Warplanes

June 11, 2018

Air Force weighs a cheaper way of waging wars in developing countries

Trident missile

A Brake On—Or Gas Pedal To—Nuclear War?

June 4, 2018

Smaller, speedier atomic bombs won’t make us safer

F-35 Nunn-McCurdy

When Congress Told the Pentagon to Rein In Weapons Costs

May 28, 2018

It wasn’t perfect, but it beats what’s happening now with today’s laissez-faire lawmakers

Major Troy Gilbert

Thoughts on Memorial Day

May 21, 2018

Thanking those who put themselves in harm’s way

MQ-9 Reaper

Will the New Drone Export Policy Hurt the Countries that Buy Them?

May 7, 2018

One almost wonders if the push to export unmanned aerial vehicles could be a secret plot to preserve the Pentagon’s combat edge

Mohammed bin Salman

Arms ‘R’ U.S.

April 30, 2018

Trump makes weapons exports a cornerstone of his economic policy

Tomahawk missile

The New American Way of War

April 23, 2018

The president attacks Syria without Congress’s approval

Sailors move an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator onto an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush

The Navy’s Incredible Shrinking Drone

April 16, 2018

From stealthy pilotless attack aircraft, to spy plane, to flying gas station

Afghan student

U.S. Army Is Trying to Fix Its Afghanistan Trainers’ Career Cul-de-Sac

April 9, 2018

After 16 long years, it’s finally taking a different path


The Space Race the Pentagon Doesn’t Want

March 26, 2018

Well, actually it wants it. Just not a new bureaucracy to run it

Mattis and Tillerson

Jim Mattis Just Got a Lot Lonelier

March 19, 2018

In an Administration increasingly full of bluster, the defense chief provides some needed ballast

F-22 sun

The Pentagon’s 21st Century Icarus

March 12, 2018

Military pilots do breathtaking things, but suffocating shouldn’t be one of them

UH-60 Black Hawk

Still Stupid After All These Years

March 5, 2018

A half-century after Walter Cronkite told us we couldn’t win in Vietnam, the U.S. ignores his counsel in Afghanistan

USS Theodore Roosevelt

Boom Service? Navy Prefers to Pass For Now

February 26, 2018

Service wants to spend $25 billion before bomb tests to confirm whether its new carrier can survive such shocks

B2 B1 B52 B21

Bombers Away! (Oops: And Back Again…)

February 19, 2018

The Air Force’s love affair with its tarnished silver bullet

Minuteman III ICBM

More Nukes = More Chances For Mistakes

February 12, 2018

Just how long can America’s atomic luck last?


Kicking the F-35’s Tires

February 5, 2018

Trouble when the rubber meets the runway

Jim Mattis

A More-Friendly Enemy: Back to the Future

January 29, 2018

The Pentagon shifts its focus from terrorists to Russia and China in its latest strategy

USS Fort Worth

The Navy’s $1 Billion Frigate

January 22, 2018

The cheap end of the sea service’s “high-low mix” has a sky-high price tag

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lee Borytsky scans the perimeter around his guard tower on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

New Year’s Irresolution: Peering into 2018

January 15, 2018

The latest pablum and portents from the Pentagon’s must-read list

Santa Claus

What If Santa Swooshed Down the Pentagon’s Chimney?

December 18, 2017

How to make the holidays happier and the U.S. military better

F-16s in South Korea Osan

The Four Horsemen of the (North Korean Nuclear) Apocalypse

December 11, 2017

Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump

Enlisted leaders

Military Readiness from the Grunts’ Perspective

December 4, 2017

Why do we get such a different story on military readiness when the real experts speak up?

F-16 nuclear launch

A Tale of Two Bombs

November 27, 2017

Goodbye to an old stalwart, and hello to a new nuke

Super Hornet Aircraft Carriers 575

Whose Finger(s) Should Be On the Nuclear Button?

November 20, 2017

Some lawmakers, long averse to declaring war, now seek a say before U.S. atomic weapons fly

U.S. Marines light up the night with a mortar-fired illumination round to deter Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan in July.

MIA: Missing Information on Afghanistan

November 13, 2017

Disappearing data raise questions about America’s longest war

A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a B-2 Spirit bomber over the Pacific Ocean

A Nuclear-Weapons Halloween

November 6, 2017

Their haunted history requires a reckoning, and a recalibration

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt pulls into San Diego. Originally part of a 32-ship fleet, the Navy ended up killing the program after buying only three, sending the price per ship from $1.5 billion to $7.5 billion.

Watching the Defense Department’s Waste Line

October 27, 2017

Why does the Pentagon develop so many weapons that it never builds?

The Navy wants to decommission the cruiser USS Bunker Hill, shown here in the Pacific in May, in 2020, after 34 years’ service.

The Nation’s Doomed 350-Ship Navy

October 23, 2017

U.S. taxpayers apparently don’t think it’s worth it

US Soldiers participate in a simulated force-on-force exercise.

Why Are So Many Female Veterans Killing Themselves?

October 16, 2017

They take their lives 2.5 times more often than civilian women

Box cutters (top) were banned from aircraft after 9/11, and Reapers (bottom) were sent around the world to hunt down terrorists. But homegrown terrorists have easy access to AK-47s (middle).

Of Guns At Home, And Guns Abroad

October 6, 2017

Why do we go to the ends of the Earth to kill terrorists while letting homegrown mass murderers fire freely?

Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft conduct a mission with the South Korean air force over the Korean Peninsula, Sept. 18, 2017.

North Korea’s Déjà Rear Vu Mirror

October 2, 2017

Today’s woes on the peninsula go way back

Airmen salute the lowering of a flag during a flag retirement ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 28, 2016.

U.S. Troops 'Can Do,' But Their Leaders 'Won't Do'

September 25, 2017

The recent rash of accidents stem from leaders’ refusal to make tough choices

A C-5 Galaxy and other aircraft sit at sunset at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, often called the Boneyard, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

A Profile in Discouragement: Base Motives

September 18, 2017

Congressional cowardice continues to keep unneeded military installations open

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy Collisions Are Its Own Fault

September 11, 2017

Responsibility for recent fatalities goes far up the (anchor) chain

National Museum of Health and Medicine

Of Shattered Brains and Minds

September 1, 2017

Out-of-the-way military museum lets you peer inside both

An American soldier watches the sun set over Afghanistan

Afghanistan and Eggs

August 28, 2017

Fifteen years of too-good-to-be-true breakfasts

Photo of Arlington National Cemetery

A Confederacy of Dunces

August 16, 2017

Why are so many U.S. Army bases named in honor of traitors?

Photo of President Trump with military and flags

President Trump’s Two War-Fighting Brains

August 14, 2017

One side asks smart questions about Afghanistan, while the other lobs dumb threats at North Korea

Retired Marine general Jim Mattis with President Trump

Why the U.S. Military Represents Stability in Trump’s Turbulent Washington

August 7, 2017

We should be grateful they salute, but push for change when required

Secretary Jim Mattis at the commissiong of the USS Gerald R. Ford

The Defense Secretary’s Peculiar Procurement Priorities

July 31, 2017

Mattis raps brass for Afghan uniforms while far-from-ready Navy carrier sails full steam ahead

Photo of President Trump at Coast Guard Academy

The Curse of Certainty

July 10, 2017

When did we become so sure of ourselves?

F-16 Fighter Jet

My Very Own Warplane

July 3, 2017

A once-young reporter never forgets “his” first weapon system

Marine fires howitzer gun

Congressional Irresolution: Lawmakers Shirk Their Responsibility to Declare War, Or Not

June 26, 2017

The nation continues to drift from conflict to conflict under elastic authorization

U.S. soldiers fire at the enemy in Afghanistan

Another Step to Subcontracting Out Our Wars

June 19, 2017

Trump’s troop-count handoff to Mattis is part of a grim trend

F-35 on a nighttime test landing

They’re Baaack! The Military Resurrects Its Wish Lists

June 12, 2017

Gates’ defeat of them was short-lived

Millard Thompson with ALCOA sign

The Aluminum Wars

June 5, 2017

Testing the metal’s mettle in a new trade battle

Photo of Railgun Launcher after firing

The Pentagon’s Silver-Bullet Hype Machine

May 30, 2017

But don’t go blaming just the Defense Department

Photo of Arlington Cemetery

Pondering Memorial Days, Past and Present

May 22, 2017

Why do fewer KIAs seem to make each one more important?

Soldier's Face

Full Mental Jacket

May 15, 2017

The mental ravages of war remain a real enemy

U.S. Marine Firing

Waste Deep in the Big Afghaniquicksand

May 5, 2017

A U.S. recruit who joined in the invasion of the country in 2001 would be looking forward to retirement now

Photo of Trump on the USS Gerald R. Ford

Trump’s First 100 Days: Fibs, Fudges—and a Slur

May 1, 2017

His comment that the U.S. military is now proud only because of him reeks of strongmanitis

Picture of Air Craft Carrier with quote

“Dude, Where’s My Car(rier)?”

April 24, 2017

Confusion about the Vinson’s whereabouts ain’t necessarily a bad thing

HR McMaster and President Trump

Trump’s Backup National-Security Team Takes the Field

April 17, 2017

It’s certainly more traditional, but is it better?

Photograph of guided missile launched from the destroyer USS Porter

Waging War on a Whim

April 12, 2017

Tomahawk strike on Syria suggests strength, but reality is something else

NBC screenshot

A User’s Guide to the News

April 10, 2017

`Fake news’ is only a scourge if we’re lazy

Photo of a F35 mashed up with a Swiss Army Knife

A High-Altitude Look at the F-35

April 3, 2017

New report raises old questions about Swiss Army knife fighter

Soldiers fire mortar rounds during a fire mission supporting the 9th Iraqi army division near Al Tarab, Iraq, March 14, 2017. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Carwell

Why Are Americans So Afraid?

March 27, 2017

The national jitteriness fuels unnecessary Pentagon spending increases

Marine Corps implements force integration plan, graduates first female artillery officers

Are the Military Services All That Different?

March 20, 2017

Actually, the Marines’ nude-photo scandal highlights the similarities

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with the United Arab Emirates' Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Filling in the Blanks at Trump’s Pentagon

March 13, 2017

With all those top civilians MIA, let’s set our own military priorities!

resident Donald J. Trump passes through the ceremonial rainbow sideboys upon his departure from the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford

What I’ve Learned Covering the Military for 40 Years

March 6, 2017

Scant public interest yields ceaseless wars to nowhere

June 18, 2018

Senate wants to punish Turkey for imprisoning an American pastor

McClatchy | By Christine Condon

February 23, 2018

Who will watchdog Trump’s massive Pentagon budget while McCain is absent?

The Washington Post | By Christian Davenport

December 23, 2017

Temporary funding prevents shutdown, but hurts military, officials say

Dayton Daily News | By Barrie Barber and Jessica Wehrman

December 14, 2017

The Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow

The New York Times | By Editorial Board

December 14, 2017

Reaganomics on Steroids?

Inkstick Media | By William D. Hartung

August 3, 2017

Some Thoughts On USS Ford (CVN 78)

Real Clear Defense | By Craig Hooper, Next Navy

April 13, 2017

To Save Millions, Military Grounds Planes Worth Billions

Roll Call | By John M. Donnelly