Determining the Success of the Patriot Missile

Regarding the article "Success of Patriot Missile Still in Question," Oct. 8: I take issue with several points the author makes. First, he reports that the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a negative report about the Patriot in the Gulf. The author states that the "report concludes that the United States Army's estimate that the Patriot destroyed 70 percent of its Scud missile targets in Saudi Arabia and 40 percent of them in Israel was overblown." This is incorrect.

Had the author studied the report more thoroughly and not relied on a press release from the chairman of the House Government Operations Committee and an interview with one of the committee staffers, he would have learned that the report does not contradict the Army's figures. It merely breaks them down into separate categories for evaluation.

In addition, the GAO addresses the difficulty of collecting conclusive proof during combat because Patriot was operating in a war zone rather than on a test range. The manipulation of numbers that the congressional committee staffer put on the GAO's conclusion should be of serious concern and should not just be accepted and reported as fact.

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A second point is that the Monitor, along with a number of other media organizations, has given far too much exposure and credibility to Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who claims that Patriot didn't work in the Gulf war. Mr. Postol is being paid for his attacks on Patriot by at least one anti-defense organization with a strong agenda against Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

Finally, the author quotes Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D) of Michigan as saying that "Raytheon mounted a ferocious lobbying campaign against a report they had never read. We offered to brief them. They refused." Raytheon executives did receive a briefing from the minority side of the committee. Mr. Conyers knows that to be true. Why then does he continue to insist that we were not briefed, or why is it even relevant considering that the more important issue is the rejection of his staff's report by the same c ommittee it was prepared for? It is now time to accept that the Patriot, while not perfect, performed well in the Gulf war, and to get on with making it a better system for the defense of our men and women. P. Coulter Lexington, Mass. Director, Public Relations, Advertising, Raytheon Company Energy dependency

The slow death of the American energy industry is disquieting. Crude-oil production has fallen to a 31-year low. Solar-energy firms have gone bankrupt, and there hasn't been an order for a nuclear power plant since 1978.

Neither President Bush nor Gov. Bill Clinton has addressed the implications of our nation's growing dependence on imported oil - namely the subtle but pervasively damaging decline in our overall competitiveness that results when we are forced to pay for imported oil. Such oil now accounts for 50 percent of domestic consumption, the highest level of dependence since the OPEC embargo of 1973, and also constitutes 55 percent of the nation's trade deficit. Energy-efficiency measures will help, but to truly a ddress our energy problem we need to develop a basket of energy sources that will reduce our reliance upon any one source. C. T. Carley, Columbus, Miss., Head, Petroleum Engineering Dept., Mississippi State University

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