Much like Army leaders in the 1930s had to look to the future and invest in future technologies beyond the sabre or saddle, today's generals must pick which parts of the defense industrial base it wants to support to give soldiers the edge in future battles, said Army Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8.
"We don't want to be in the position of 1939 when we say we have to go out and protect the saber and saddle industry because our cavalry is going to need it for the future. We have to make sure we got the right industrial challenges for the future and those are the ones we have to focus on," Lennox said.
Ears perked up at a Thursday morning breakfast hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army when the Army three-star at first seemed to compare the sabre and saddle to the tank in terms of what technologies the Army should not invest. The line came directly after he said he understood the concerns people have with the loss of jobs when it comes to shutting down the tank plant in Lima, Ohio.
Congress has repeatedly ripped the Army for its decision to temporarily close the tank production line before re-opening it to upgrade its tank fleet. A comparison like that would only be rubbing salt in the wounds of Ohio lawmakers fighting to keep open the General Dynamics tank production line in Lima.
Lennox said after the speech that he by no means meant to compare the tank to the saddle or sabre.
"All the armor guys in the world would kill me," he joked.
However, the Army doesn't have the budget to support legacy systems in order to prop up the entire defense industrial base. It must invest in future technologies such as UAVs or advanced optics.
"There are choices that are going to have to be made and some things are going to be tougher than others," Lennox said.
He understands this is an election year and Congress is bending over backwards to protect jobs in their districts. Lennox is sympathetic to this, but it can't cloud the Army's judgement and force leaders to invest in equipment that won't maintain that lethal edge.
"We know there are industrial base implications and this is a challenge for us and we understand there are jobs at risk," he said.