When he thinks about military waste, which was last year's dominant news out of the Pentagon and may well be this year's, Howard Morland remembers his days as an Air Force cargo pilot. He served during the Vietnam war. Twice a month for half of 1967 and all of 1968, the native Alabamian flew between Los Angeles and bases in Southeast Asia. On most runs, the hold of his C14l transport plane carried a freight load of 40,000 pounds. But more than 600,000 pounds of jet fuel were needed to ferry the plane over the Pacific and back.

"Every time we landed," Morland recalls, "we had to take on 100,000 pounds of fuel to get to the next stop. The Air Force had to haul jet fuel all over the ocean to meet us. It was a huge waste: 600,000 pounds of jet fuel to move 40,000 pounds of cargo. It was perfectly logical, though, because everything else about the war was extravagantly wasteful."

The regret at being a part of all that helps explain why Morland has moved on from his military experiences to become a strength of the peace movement in the 1980s. He is the disarmament coordinator for the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy. A loyal core of 55 national groups, from the American Friends Service Committee to the National Council of Churches, supports this Washington-based coalition.

Morland, who is 43 and has developed a tolerance for the absurd that he finds essential in dealing with the Pentagon, earns a salary of less than $20,000 annually. His major goal for 1986 is the same as last year's and the year before that: stopping the money flow from a Congress that has already spent $7 billion on the Trident II D5 missile program and that, in the next decade, appears ready to lay out another $45 billion to $50 billion.

Morland calls the D5 "the weapon that moderates in Congress love to promote as an alternative to the MX." The promotion has had few political risks because, unlike the MX, the D5 has only a minority in Congress in opposition. Worse, its ranks keep thinning. The most recent vote in the House had 79 members favoring an amendment to stop production funds. A 1984 vote had an opposition of 93. Sunshine liberals, fearing the accusation of being antidefense, defected under the argument that "we can't vote against every missile." Switching from opposition to support of the D5 were a number of House members who pride themselves in opposing military excesses: Joseph Addabbo (D-N.Y.), Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Against those kinds of defections, Morland calls on a reserve of inner steel to remain unbent. "I could get discouraged," he says. "But I see large changes occurring in small ways. In the peace movement, a commitment has been made on the part of national organizations and thoughtful individuals to dedicate themselves to hammer away and establish a presence. We're here. Twenty years ago, for example, no coalition was around to oppose the Minuteman missile built by the Kennedy administration."

Morland's argument against the D5 is that it escalates the arms race by replacing an already adequate weapon -- the C4 missile -- with so frighteningly a destructive and accurate one that it sends a message to the Soviet leaders that we are preparing a first-strike offense.

This targeting capability, Morland explains, means that the current nuclear balance would be upset. The D5, of which nearly 400 warheads a year could be produced by 1989 and aimed at all 1,398 Soviet nuclear missile silos, "could provoke the Russians to launch a preemptive strike. Even the appearance of a capability to destroy their silos is crisis-destabilizing. It gives the Soviet leaders a reason to fear a U.S. preemptive strike which, in turn, gives Soviet leaders an incentive to launch their own preemptive strike out of desperation. The D5 will place Soviet ICBMs in a 'use-them-or-lose-them' situation and increase the likelihood of strategic nuclear war, regardless of our intentions. Hardware capability speaks louder than any other form of communication in a nuclear crisis . . . In such situations, perceptions become reality and people do things they had no intention of doing."

In 1979, Morland's article in The Progressive magazine, "How the Hydrogen Bomb Works," startled the public into realizing that the secrets of annihilation were no secret. Opposition to the D5 is part of the same effort, except this time the issue -- nuclear targeting policy -- appears too technical for the public to bestir itself.

Morland's message, in 1979 and now, is that it doesn't take much to be an expert. The first qualification is to love life and the second is to look at a weapon like the D5 -- the most expensive and most destructive ever built by America -- and question why is it about to be imposed on a world that already spends more than $2 billion a day on wars and war preparation.

That's what Morland and the D5 are all about. Every individual has a theory of risk: What are we most worried about?