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I must take issue with your editorial of May 18 regarding Pentagon spending. The Defense Department has undergone massive reductions in force and structure. While I believe that many of the cuts were justified in light of a reduced-threat environment, it is my opinion that we have gone too far.

In 1994 I returned to the civilian world following a 12-year military career as an active duty naval officer. During that year 25 percent of the Navy's surface fleet was decommissioned. Our Navy's fleet now stands at 346 ships, down from its gulf war high of about 600.Your editorial criticized the upgrade of the F/A-18, which is necessary to offset the retirement of the A-6, which is being retired this year after a 30-plus-year active service life.

Today it is open to question whether the military can handle two simultaneous conflicts, which has been the hallmark of contingency planning for several decades. To illustrate our current vulnerability, during the gulf war, 75 percent of the Marine Corps was deployed to the Persian Gulf. We would be hard-pressed to duplicate that effort today even with an all-out activation of our nation's reserves.

The military's primary mission is to train and to stand in readiness to defend national interests. As a nation we have consistently failed to learn from the lessons of the past that teach us that a strong military is the only effective deterrent to conflict. About 30 years ago Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara attempted to impose his vision of a cost-effective fighting machine on the U.S. military with the end result that dollars saved were offset by the red blood of our nation's most precious resource. Quality comes at a price, let's not be penny wise and pound foolish by sacrificing the blood of our nation's youths.

If you are serious about looking after the taxpayers' interest and reducing the deficit, take a closer look at our overbloated welfare state.

Gregory R. Johnson