The accusation by Edwin M. Yoder Jr. that somehow it is the fault of Congress that things are not going well in the Persian Gulf is absurd {"The Missile That Struck Capitol Hill," May 27}. Yoder says that, since Congress has already authorized construction of a 600-ship Navy over the past several years, it is now too late to and even inconsistent for Congress to ask questions before the administration commits that Navy to an unclear mission in the Persian Gulf.

I am the chairman of the House armed services subcommittee on seapower. I have led the fight in the House for the 600-ship Navy. I also represent the town in Florida that is homeport to the USS Stark. I see no inconsistency in asking the administration now to explain clearly to Congress a mission that might lead to war with Iran. In fact, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ask this question. Would Yoder also argue that, since Congress has authorized construction of thousands of strategic nuclear missiles, it has no business asking how these missiles might be used?

Let's clear up a few of Yoder's points. He says that the administration previously tried to consult Congress, but no one was listening. Congress was not consulted about the implications or parameters of administration policy in the Persian Gulf. If it had been consulted, it would have insisted earlier on a burden-sharing effort with other nations able to help and more benefitted by the result, such as Germany, France and Japan. I am chairman of the subcommittee, and no one from the administration ever consulted me on this subject. There were specific hearings on Navy strategy held this year where that would have been a very good matter to be discussed and not a word was uttered on the subject.

Yoder is also incorrect implying that achievement of a 600-ship Navy is the result of congressional action alone. In fact, all of these ships were requested by the administration.

Yoder seems to be a lonely critic at a time when the administration is beginning to realize that this country needs less name-calling and more teamwork as we face the Persian Gulf challenge. The administration is moving to consult with Congress before proceeding with the reflagging of Kuwaiti ships. During such consultations, the first need is to assess the facts. What are our general interests in the Gulf, and our specific purposes in reflagging Kuwaiti ships? How much military might is needed to protect the ships we wish to reflag? What are the military and political contingencies we may face in that mission? Can we obtain greater assistance from our allies?

At bottom, we must together face the question of whether or not the United States is on its way toward war against Iran. The chances of that being so will be diminished to the extent that U.S. efforts there have broad support in Congress among our allies. Instead of indulging in name-calling and negativism, Yoder should join the team and help us assess the challenges, our capabilities and our strategies for protecting U.S. security while avoiding another unneeded war. -- Charles E. Bennett The writer is a Democratic representative from Florida.