We are troubled by the inaccurate statements in "Drug Tests: The Courts Say Yes" {editorial, June 9}. Implicit in the editorial are two false assumptions: first, that the federal government has embarked on a frivolous and indiscriminate testing program that should be stopped by Congress; and second, that drug tests are routinely given where public safety is a factor. The Post is wrong in both instances.

The president issued a September 1986 executive order for a "Drug Free Federal Workforce" in response to clear evidence that shocking numbers of Americans use drugs. A 1985 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that 19 percent of all Americans over 12 years of age had used an illicit drug in the past year. Of employed 20- to 40-year-olds, 29 percent reported use of an illicit drug in the previous year, and 19 percent said they had used cocaine or marijuana at least once during the past month. At the same time a survey by the American Management Association and Arizona State University showed that one in 10 blue- and white-collar workers used illegal drugs in the work place.

Because the civil service reflects society as a whole, public employers understandably are concerned about the fitness of their employees to serve the American taxpayer safely and reliably. As noted in the editorial, the courts have not found random testing of federal employees in security or safety-sensitive positions to be a frivolous matter. In fact, uncovering substance abusers in the federal work place can mean life or death to fellow employees and to the public they serve. We agree that testing should be limited to those employees whose responsibilities actually demand such a rigorous determination of fitness. However, there is nothing indiscriminate in testing federal employees who will be apprehending drug runners, handling classified information affecting our nation's security, directing traffic over major airports or carrying guns.

The Post is mistaken in its view that the public can rest easy with regard to the fitness of private-sector employees who are responsible for public safety. It is not accurate to say that airline pilots, railroad engineers, truckers or bus drivers are routinely tested for drug use. Recently adopted drug testing requirements for rail employees are the exception, not the rule.

Furthermore, this January's tragic and avoidable train accident at Chase, Md., showed us that these rail regulations requiring a limited range of testing don't go far enough. Pre-employment testing doesn't weed out problem employees who are already on the payroll. Testing based on reasonable suspicion requires obvious signs of substance use -- an easy task with alcohol, but almost impossible with drugs. Advanced scheduling of periodic physical examinations gives employees time to "clean up" before testing. Post-accident testing after a fatality is too late.

In order truly to protect the public, the deterrent effect of drug testing on a truly random and impartial basis is needed. Legislation that was reported 19-1 by the Senate Commerce Committee and currently awaiting action by the full Senate would require the secretary of transportation to implement the full range of drug and alcohol testing -- including random testing -- in the aviation, rail and motor carrier industries. In addition, the bill would establish strict procedural safeguards and the opportunity for rehabilitation.

The public expects that the individuals who choose to serve in sensitive government positions or in safety-related transportation careers are neither drunk nor drugged on the job. It should be no surprise that the courts, Congress and the public agree. ERNEST F. HOLLINGS U.S. Senator (D-S.C.) Chairman JOHN C. DANFORTH U.S. Senator (R-Mo.) Ranking Republican Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Washington