Although culture-independent techniques have shown that the lungs are not sterile, little is known about the lung microbiome in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We used pyrosequencing of 16S amplicons to analyze the lung microbiome in two ways: first, using bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) to sample the distal bronchi and air-spaces; and second, by examining multiple discrete tissue sites in the lungs of six subjects removed at the time of transplantation. We performed BAL on three never-smokers (NS) with normal spirometry, seven smokers with normal spirometry ("healthy smokers", HS), and four subjects with COPD (CS). Bacterial 16 s sequences were found in all subjects, without significant quantitative differences between groups. Both taxonomy-based and taxonomy-independent approaches disclosed heterogeneity in the bacterial communities between HS subjects that was similar to that seen in healthy NS and two mild COPD patients. The moderate and severe COPD patients had very limited community diversity, which was also noted in 28% of the healthy subjects. Both approaches revealed extensive membership overlap between the bacterial communities of the three study groups. No genera were common within a group but unique across groups. Our data suggests the existence of a core pulmonary bacterial microbiome that includes Pseudomonas, Streptococcus, Prevotella, Fusobacterium, Haemophilus, Veillonella, and Porphyromonas. Most strikingly, there were significant micro-anatomic differences in bacterial communities within the same lung of subjects with advanced COPD. These studies are further demonstration of the pulmonary microbiome and highlight global and micro-anatomic changes in these bacterial communities in severe COPD patients.