The Senate always feels it's doing its job when it votes more money for defense. But when it thinks of defense it imagines the funds will be used for some exotic weapon that the Russians' don't have. What Congress doesn't like to do is appropriate money for simple things like boots, barracks and tents.

The Pentagon budget people are wise to what turns Capitol Hill on, so when they go up to ask for money for the mundane items that every armed service needs to survive, they disguise the requests as new weapons systems that will send the senators into orgasms of joy.

Col. Plotter was sent up last week to get an appropriation for new mess halls that the U.S. Army desperately needed. He knew he would be in trouble if he asked for mess hall money because the Senate armed services subcommittee he was appearing in front of is only interested in new electronic hardware that can knock Moscow (or Havana) off the face of the map.

So instead of asking for funds for mess halls, Col. Plotter told the subcommittee the Army wanted to build 1,000 new MESS 112 All Weather Launch Pad Silos.

He unveiled a large drawing of the new weapon on his easel.

The senators studied it with interest.

Then one of them said, "It looks like a mess hall to me."

"Yes, sir," Col. Plotter said. "The configuration of the silo is quite similar to a mess hall, which makes detection of it from the air very difficult for the Soviets.

"The module was designed in a rectangular solid-state complex to evade lethal enemy attacks."

"Do the Soviets have anything like it?" another senator asked,

"To our knowledge, sir, they are now working on a BORSHT 514-Silo which has twice the seating capacity of the MESS 112, but lacks the microwave oven throw weight system."

"Don't evade the question, colonel. Will we have parity or superiority if we go ahead with your weapon?"

"It is my opinion, sir, that if we don't go ahead on the MESS 112 immediately, our army could starve to death."

"Tell us more about it, colonel."

"All right. As you can see, back here is what looks like a kitchen. This is the control center which feeds the passive integrated fuel supply into this section of the terminal, which our people have dubbed the MESS line. The fuel is then transferred into aluminum software and moved by specially trained personnel through the line over to what appears to be tables, but are in effect armored air-to-ground missile shelters."

"When does the damn thing go off?" a senator said impatiently.

The colonel replied, "When the SPAM guidance system locks into the BORSHT 514, the roof opens and then it's goodby Minsk, Pinsk and Kiev."

"Well done, colonel," the chairman of the subcommittee said.

"What do you estimate each MESS 112 will cost?"

"About $1 million per unit, sir, not counting the Cuisinart."

"Cuisinart?"

"That's our code name for the magnet electronic back-burner range."

"Colonel, you can tell your superiors as far as this committee is concerned, you will get full authorization for 1,000 MESS 112s, and more if you need them. We don't approve the SALT II treaty unless we have them in our arsenal."

"Thank you, gentleman. The U.S. Army has hungered for this weapon for a long time."