Women now make up about 10 percent of the nation's armed forces. Instead of being welcomed and appreciated for playing a pivotal role in maintaining a volunteer military, however, they continue to run into the kind of shocking mistreatment that ought to be the target of a full-scale congressional investigation.

For the second year in a row, the executive committee of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services has gone abroad to find out how military women are getting along and come back with reports of inexcusable working conditions that devastate morale and seriously undermine the ability of a significant part of military people to function effectively.

The first fact-finding mission went to Army and Air Force bases in Germany and England in August 1986. The second mission went to Navy and Marine Corps facilities in the Pacific a year later. A couple of conclusions are readily apparent: one is that the Navy can now retire the trophy for being the worst branch of the service for women. The second is that warnings contained in the first report to the Pentagon brass went virtually unheeded. Sexual harassment, for example, continues to be rampant and, quite obviously, continues to be tolerated, if not condoned outright. Women who chose to serve their country do so at considerable peril, not from the enemy, but from their colleagues and superiors.

The reports conclude that women are made to feel unwelcome in a variety of ways, ranging from limited promotional opportunities, discrimination in job performance, abysmal housing accommodations, derisive language, inadequate medical care, inadequate weapons and inconsistent policies regarding assignment to combat positions. Last year's report found that sexual harassment was "a pervasive concern of all military women" that the chains of command failed to address.

A year later, the Navy served up a sensational example of that. In the Pacific, the advisory committee found that "abusive behavior," ranging from verbal abuse to "blatant sexual harassment continues to exist in both the Navy and Marine Corps." In both, the report found, "the encouragement of a 'macho' male image contributes to behavior that is at best inappropriate and at worst morally repugnant. Such behavior was encountered by the {the committee} at each installation we visited."

The most sensational case involved the senior officer of the USS Safeguard, Lt. Cdmr. Kenneth D. Harvey, 40, who was accused of offering to sell women sailors to Koreans. Harvey, a 17-year veteran, was stripped of his command last week. A Navy spokesman said Harvey also was fined half of his base pay for two months and will have a letter of reprimand put in his personnel file. He was found guilty of 10 charges, including sexual harassment, and charges that he engaged in a public act of sex with a Filipino woman while male and female crew members watched during a party in Olongapo City, near Subic Bay. Another charge was that he videotaped male crewmen bathing nude while female crew members looked on.

The report was sharply critical of the Navy for its "support for such on-base activities" as sexually oriented parties and allowing Filipino women into the various clubs at the base at Subic Bay, which is one of the most notorious cesspools in the Orient. "The issue of moral acceptability aside, on-base activities such as these contribute to creating an environment in which all females are regarded with little or no respect. And abusive behavior toward all women is not only passively accepted and condoned, but encouraged."

Carolyn Becraft, a former Army captain who heads the Women's Equity Action League's Women in the Military Project, puts the problem squarely in the hands of the military leadership. When women are sent overseas, she says, they leave the culture and values of the civilian world behind them. "The leadership has a double duty to assure that the values remain the same and apparently this did not happen. Overseas it can get to a point where anything goes."

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger has set up a task force in response to the report, but what is going on warrants more than that. Women are being asked to live and work in unbearable situations that are costly to them and to the military. Prostitutes are working on bases where families live. The senior officer of a vessel has sex in front of male and female crew members and doesn't even get court-martialed. These things don't happen unless the leadership condones them. The next question is whether Congress will condone it, as well.