Health EconomicsEditor: There has been much criticism...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Health Economics

Editor: There has been much criticism lately about how the U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee basic health care for each of its citizens. Having our government provide health services for us would be one of the worst things that could happen to this great nation.

It is common knowledge that the government cannot afford the astronomical cost of a federal health care program. But even if we could afford it, such a program would do more harm than good to the socioeconomic condition of America.

If the federal government provided health care to those who did not have it, what reason would a private company have for giving its employees health benefits? We would likely see corporations drop their health plans in favor of letting the government pick up the tab.

This, or course, would be disastrous for the already bankrupt government and would only further weaken our economic strength. Besides, the bureaucracy of our over-sized government would prevent any such program from being run efficiently.

It would be better to leave health care programs in the hands of private companies and simply have the government make it easier for those companies to serve the people by reducing the legal costs of health care.

The competitive forces of free enterprise would guarantee that the consumer would receive the lowest possible cost and, therefore, more individuals could afford health services.

Harry W. Collins.

Phoenix.

Combat Is Killing

Editor: I wish to comment on the May 26 story about the bills in Congress on women in combat.

The fallacy is in failure to define "combat." Civilian women have always been endangered by warfare, but that is not "combat." Combat is killing, not simply being killed. A front-line medic, for instance, is a non-combatant by legal definition.

Excepting such legal non-combatants, absolutely all male soldiers and sailors can be compelled to kill as front-line infantrymen. If a male Marine band flutist refused to fight as a rifle-man, he can legally be shot to death by a firing squad.

If feminists want female flutists to be shot by firing squads, they should say so clearly and ask Congress to make that the law.

What we cannot reasonably do is to give women choices denied to men. If women can choose to quit, so can men. As a former combat infantry captain, I assure you that if men can legally quit, thousands will.

As a first-sergeant in my youth, I was issued a sword, its original purpose being to drive men forward into fire.

Could I have been expected to use it on a "woman soldier"?

What if she declared herself pregnant? The absurdities are endless.

The problem is that silly feminists, including crackpot female politicians, interested only in benefits, are not curious enough about battle to pay attention. Their idea is to belittle fighting men to get the best of two worlds.

Thus far, not a single American servicewoman has ever killed in ** war. Six have died from accidental enemy action -- two in Italy, one in Vietnam and three in the gulf.

Willis Case Rowe.

Baltimore.

We Did Right

Editor: Leon Peace Reid's denunciation of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf in particular and Operation Desert Shield/Storm in general certainly was an unfortunate choice for publication on Memorial Day. However, it is even more unfortunate how some people can't (or won't) see the forest for the trees.

To begin with, his contention that we should have given the sanctions against Iraq a chance to work is ludicrous; all he had to do was look at the postwar footage out of Southern Iraq and Kuwait. Basically, Iraq's economy is based on agriculture and oil; it could have survived forever under the sanctions, even without selling a drop of oil. How would Mr. Reid and his kind have liked to keep 542,000 U.S. military men and women sitting in the Saudi Arabian desert for a year longer?

Saddam Hussein spent the seven months of the sanctions building fortifications and positioning troops and ammunition for "The Mother of All Battles." The longer we waited, the stronger and better supplied those fortifications would have become and the more costly digging a better-prepared Iraqi army out of them would have been.

As a career serviceman who was spat upon on my way home from Vietnam in 1967, I can attest to the deep divisions which existed in this country then and during the 20-plus years since. Operation Desert Shield/Storm went a long way toward pulling this country back together. In that sense, America and the

American people were the big winners in the Persian Gulf war.

No, attacking Iraq when we did the way we did was by far the

best way, except that we should have gone to Baghdad and captured, tried and executed Saddam Hussein and his entire government while we had the chance.

Charles A. Frainie.

Baltimore.

Comparing Costs and Merits of Aircraft

Editor: The Sun has an outstanding history of accurate reporting on issues of national interest and military analyst Jeffrey Record has written a number of thought-provoking pieces for your paper. However, his article, "Moving the Military to Where the War Is," is off the mark regarding the relative merits of the C-5 and the C-17.

The article says that "the name of the game in strategic airlift is to haul as much cargo as possible as far as possible in the shortest amount of time." That's not quite accurate.

The name of the game is not just to haul but deliver as much cargo as possible in the shortest amount of time -- and not just to deliver it anywhere but to deliver it to where it's needed.

The difference may seem semantic (which perhaps explains why a knowledgeable observer like Mr. Record was misled) but it actually results in a very significant difference in effectiveness.

First, the C-17 is much more agile on the ground than a C-5 and uses up much less ramp space. For example, eight C-17s can be parked and unloaded on a ramp that would only accommodate three C-5s. C-17s can also be loaded and unloaded more quickly than C-5s. The result: even though an individual C-5 can haul more cargo than a C-17, use of the C-17s allows the Air Force to deliver far more cargo to an airfield in a given time period.

Second, the C-17 is designed to operate on 3,000-foot strips, whereas the C-5s require 5,000 feet of runway. That difference means that two-thirds of the world's airfields which are available to the C-17 cannot be used by the C-5. The result: the C-17 enables us to deliver cargo much closer to where it is needed, reducing or eliminating the requirement for in-theater movement to the final destination.

These facts equate to a real difference in combat capability. The last two conflicts the United States has fought prove the point.

In the environment we found in Panama during Operation Just Cause -- limited airfields and tight parking ramps -- the C-17 could have operated into five airfields and cut the time required to deploy forces virtually in half. The C-5, on the other hand, was only able to operate into two airfields in Panama and was significantly limited by ramp space at those.

Even in an environment such as Saudi Arabia -- flush with well-equipped airports and long runways -- the C-17 would still have provided a significant advantage. The planned replacement C-141s with C-17s would have allowed us to deploy roughly a third more forces in the first 45 days of Operation Desert Shield -- 12 more fighter squadrons and two more light brigades in the first 12 days alone.

Replacing C-141s with C-5s, on the other hand, would not have resulted in more forces delivered in the first 45 days, because of airfield constraints that existed even in a country with well-developed airfields.

All this means that the C-17 provides the theater commander with dramatically more combat capability than the C-5.

The other issue that Mr. Record raised is cost. Some marketeers would have you believe that the C-5s' cost would be only about half that of the C-17. That's wrong because it takes an unscrubbed estimate for the C-5, which is based only on start-up and fly-away procurement costs, and compares it to the total program acquisition unit cost for the C-17 -- which not only includes the above, but also the costs of research and development, military construction, initial spares, training, and support equipment.

More important, focusing exclusively on the cost of initial acquisition is shortsighted because it does not consider the costs to operate and maintain the aircraft. The Air Force can't afford to focus so narrowly -- we have to budget to both acquire and operate the aircraft. When you tote it all up, the C-17 will cost the taxpayers less than the C-5.

onald B. Rice.

Washington.

=1 The writer is the Secretary of the Air Force.

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