One of the major reasons the U.S. armed forces are woefully short of every type of military equipment is that we have such a big heart, and we keep giving it away to countries who claim they need it more than we do.

If the U.S. military believes that the new Reagan appropriation requests are going to beef up their forces, they're in for a surprise.

I was at one of the larger fighter aircraft companies, where several Air Force officers were eagerly waiting for the planes to come off the assembly line, when I saw the following scene:

A brand-new fighter came rolling out of the hangar, and one of the U.S. pilots jumped up on the wing.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" a company foreman said.

"I'm just looking over our new plane."

"That plane doesn't belong to you. The State Department has promised the first 20 to Saudi Arabia."

"When do we get ours?" the pilot asked.

The foreman looked over his order list. "After Saudi Arabia, the next 12 go to Chile, 14 have been set aside for Argentina, the following 15 have been allocated for Taiwan, and if we have any left over we're to ship them to South Yemen."

"Wait a minute. We came all the way from the East Coast to pick up these planes. We can't go back empty-handed."

The foreman checked over his list. "What military service did you say you were with?"

"The U.S. Air Force. You know, 'Off we go into the wild blue yonder.'"

"I don't see anything here for the U.S. Air Force. Are you sure you're supposed to get American fighter planes?"

"That was the whole idea of giving the Pentagon more money. Who's in charge around here?"

"There's a fellow from the State Department over there. You might talk to him."

The head of the Air Force delegation went over to a man wearing striped pants and a tail coat. "How come we're not getting any fighter planes from this plant?"

"What country do you represent?" Striped Pants asked.

"The United States, dummy."

"You don't have to be rude. We have certain priorities when it comes to the allocation of fighter planes. We have to see that our friends get them first."

"I don't get it. I thought the U.S. was trying to play catch-up with the Russians. What are we doing giving all our stuff away?"

"If we don't give the Third World our best planes, the Soviets will start supplying them with MIGs. Therefore, it's in our national interest to see that every country in the Free World gets all the military equipment it asks for."

"What are we giving Chile and Argentina planes for?"

"They both have military governments and need them to stay in power. With some countries it's a question of defense, with others it's a matter of prestige."

"What about Taiwan?"

"We've always sent fighter planes to Taiwan. It's an old American tradition."

"Look, fellow, the basis of American foreign policy is to be able to face up to the Russians anywhere, any place. How do we do it if you keep giving away our new military equipment?"

"We're aware of the problem, but no self-respecting military junta will take hand-me-downs. They want only the best military hardware that money can buy. If we gave the U.S. armed forces our newest equipment before we gave it to the Third World, they would be very insulted."

"So where does that leave the U.S. Air Force?"

"I think you'll get yours after Pakistan, or is it Jordan? I know your name came up as a possibility for fighters somewhere along the line."

"Isn't there any way we can get planes before Chile?"

"Colonel, it's absolutely out of the question. Where would we be today if we hadn't given Iran our first-class fighter planes years ago?"