Weapons for a strong defense

A recent editorial extols the ``right of the American people to know how their tax dollars have been used at the Pentagon'' [``Pentagon Windfall,'' May 22]. This recalls the effectiveness of the Truman Committee during World War II. Sen. Harry S. Truman became his party's vice-presidential nominee in 1944, due largely to his strong leadership of the bipartisan Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. This special committee saved American taxpayers billions of dollars by shedding light on wartime contractors.

The Truman Committee went all over the country, looking into every nook and cranny of plants working on wartime contracts.

The investigators found plenty of hanky-panky, and deal with it they did. The very mention of the Truman Committee showing up at a plant unannounced was enough to cause a government contractor to shake in his boots.

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Now, we have several giant defense contractors openly admitting mismanagement, cheating, and fraud. Isn't it time for a similar Senate investigative committee? E. A. McLaughlin Los Altos Hills, Calif.

A May 23 lead article, ``Pentagon's buying habits prod renewed efforts for reform,'' outlines some much-needed procedures.

My observation based on Vietnam service as a chaplain is that Pentagon buying habits are merely the most obvious symptom of deeper thought patterns -- not just in the military, but in society at large:

The idea that money alone is the answer; that the bigger the allocation, the better the solution.

A preoccupation with things and a casual nonchalance about good.

The assumption that might equals strength, when, in fact, real strength is based more on character and inner values than on armaments and weaponry.

In Vietnam I learned that the Australians and the South Koreans, especially in the Tiger Division, were the most feared adversaries in battle, not because of their superior weaponry or even their innovative tactics; they were feared because of their tenacity, courage, unbending ferocity once in contact, and the will to carry on regardless of odds. These are the weapons that make for strong defense. Richard H. Gray Shrewsbury, N.J.

``Protecting religion'' (June 7) was an excellent editorial supporting the US Supreme Court's ban on silent prayer in the classroom. Those who advocate silent prayer should realize that our forefathers left Europe because they were victims of state-imposed religion that wasn't theirs; silent-prayer advocates want to introduce that old horror here in America. Louis A. Camebba Brooklyn, N.Y.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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