Lawrence Franklin Skibbie – Lieutenant General, United States Army

Lawrence Franklin Skibbie, 74, a retired Army Lieutenant General whose assignments included Deputy Commander for research, development and acquisition of the Army Materiel Command, died December 10, 2006, at his home in Arlington County, Virginia. He had cancer.

General Skibbie, who was born in Bowling Green, Ohio, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1954 and received a master's degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University in 1961.

He also attended the Command and General Staff College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and artillery and ordnance schools.

General Skibbie held a variety of command and staff positions during his 33-year military career, including Commanding General of the Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, commander of the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois and associate professor of ordnance engineering at West Point.

In 1968 and 1969, he served in the Vietnam War as commander of the 63rd Maintenance Battalion.

His military decorations included two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and four awards of the Meritorious Service Medal.

General Skibbie retired from active military duty in 1987. He then became president and chief executive of the American Defense Preparedness Association, as well as its successor organization, the National Defense Industrial Association.

He retired again in 2001 and focused on volunteer work, including as vice president of the National Military Family Association, which advocates for military families.

He was a member of the board of defense industry firms, the Boy Scouts of America, the National Science Center and the Easter Seal Society.

He was a member of the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, an inductee of the Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame and a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria.

His pastimes included gardening and tennis.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Nancy Joan Skibbie of Arlington; four children, Dana Best of Wheaton, Michael Skibbie of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, David Skibbie of Takoma Park and Mark Skibbie of Bethesda; a brother; and six grandchildren.

Promoter of Nation's Long-Term Defense

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 14, 2007

When Lawrence F. Skibbie first made General in 1978, his father, Gus, had a few thoughts on the subject. Gus Skibbie, a high school teacher who became mayor of Bowling Green, Ohio, told a local reporter he deserved some credit for his son's advancement in the strict atmosphere of Army life.

“I kicked him out of my social studies class because he once called me ‘Dad' in class,” said Gus Skibbie, who also was a college football referee. “I said that was being too familiar and told him to leave.”

He went on to support his son's military ambitions and encouraged his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Lawrence Skibbie, 74, who died of cancer December 10, 2006, at his home in Arlington County, Virginia, distinguished himself in the Army Ordnance Corps and retired at the rank of Lieutenant General.

In a long life devoted to the military — primarily overseeing the purchase and readiness of military hardware, including ammunition and sophisticated communications systems — Skibbie faced steep challenges about the changing needs of a nation. He was inducted into the ordnance corps' hall of fame.

After the end of the Vietnam War, Skibbie pointed to the persistent Cold War as a reason to maintain strong funding for the most technologically advanced weapons systems. Colleagues cited this as evidence of long-range military thinking.

Retired General Louis C. Wagner, a former commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, credited Skibbie with attaining financial and political support for major weapons systems that proved successful during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. He pointed specifically to ammunition for the Abrams M1 combat tank.

Wagner said Skibbie, who had once presided over the Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, also helped advance the technology behind today's communications devices that allow simultaneous interaction among personnel in a combat zone.

After his military retirement in 1987, Skibbie spent 14 years leading what became the National Defense Industrial Association. As president, he represented more than 1,500 military contractors and articulated the defense industry's needs before politicians, Defense officials and the public.

Among his chief concerns was how the defense industry would shape its arguments for continued large-scale investments after the end of the Cold War.

He argued in congressional testimony and in newspaper opinion pieces that the U.S. defense industry needed to show consistent increases in funding to attract the brightest, most talented people. This, he said, was crucial to maintaining national security.

“This is an industry that has to be nurtured and sustained,” he told the New York Times in 2001. “We just can't ignore it and then every 10 or 15 years when there is an emergency say, ‘Let's produce something.' ”

Lawrence Franklin Skibbie was born February 16, 1932, in Bowling Green, the older of two sons. He became a high school football standout and class president.

After graduating from West Point in 1954, he joined the artillery and then went into ordnance work. He received a master's degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University.

Sent to Vietnam in the late 1960s, he took command of a maintenance battalion. He was singled out for praise by other officers for making front-line inspections. He said he wanted to make sure the artillery was in top condition and see firsthand how he could better serve combat units.

He later commanded Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, which produces such combat equipment as gun mounts, recoil mechanisms and artillery carriages. His final active-duty job was deputy commander for research, development and acquisition of the Army Materiel Command.

Skibbie was a Catholic convert in college, an immensely disciplined and devout man with a quiet personality.

He played tennis often, went running most days and was strictly conscious of a low-fat diet. He spent Saturdays making soup, using the tomatoes, peppers and onions from his garden to make gazpacho in the summer.

Skibbie was greatly frustrated by his illness, which was diagnosed a year after his second retirement.

Although unable to do the extensive traveling he had hoped, he managed to climb Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with Michael, one of his four children, and from there, via cellphone, Larry Skibbie spoke with his wife, Nancy, a high school classmate whom he had married in 1954.

They talked about the beautiful view, and then Skibbie sat down with his son for a low-key celebration of their ascent, aided by miniature bottles of Scotch he had stored in his pack.

Lieutenant General U.S. Army (Ret.)

On December 10, 2006 Lieutenant General LAWRENCE F. “LARRY” SKIBBIE, U.S. Army Retired, passed away at his home in Arlington, Virginia.

He is survived by his loving wife of 52 years, Nancy Joan Skibbie; daughter Dana Best; and sons Michael, David and Mark Skibbie; grandchildren Anya, Zoe, Kore, Lara, Andrew, Grace; and brother E. Kent Skibbie.

Funeral Mass will be held at Ft. Myer Chapel on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 12:45 p.m. Interment with Full Military Honors will follow at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to either American Cancer Society, 124 Park St. S.E., Vienna, Virginia 22180; Army Emergency Relief Society, Attn: Donations, 200 Stovall St., Room S-N-13, Alexandria, VA 22332-0600 or Capital Hospice, 6565 Arlington Blvd, Suite 501, Falls Church, Virignia 22042.

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