I regret that The Post was unable to obtain Defense Department comments for its story {front page, Nov. 14} concerning the General Accounting Office report comparing military and federal civil service compensation. The department had not yet been officially provided the draft GAO report for comment and consequently was not able to respond at the time. Following are our views:

Although the data presented in the GAO report are technically accurate for the most part, the comparisons are largely irrelevant and mask the reasons behind the differences in pay between the military and civilian sectors. The GAO recognized these deficiencies by indicating in its report that the comparisons were not sufficient to draw conclusions about the appropriateness of the pay levels. In another recent report, the GAO found that private-sector pay exceeded military pay in 49 of 52 occupations. That comparison -- between military and private-sector pay rather than between military and federal civil service pay -- was reasonable as to the matter of appropriate compensation because the military must compete with the private sector for manpower. One may recall the extreme manpower difficulties the military experienced in the late 1970s, which were mostly attributable to pay. There is widespread consensus that the large pay increases in the early 1980s were critical in resolving that crisis.

I think most people would agree that the conditions of duty or employment for the military and civilian sectors are quite different. Typically, members of the military work long hours with no overtime compensation, serve worldwide under stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions, are subject to frequent moves and family separations and are not free at any time to change jobs in their own self-interest.

I would also like to comment on former assistant secretary Larry Korb's observation in The Post article that his take-home pay was less than that of his military assistants. Instead of indicating that members of the military are overpaid, I believe his comment vividly illustrates the pay problem that exists at the senior civilian levels of government, a situation that prompted President Reagan to increase the rates of pay for those positions earlier this year. We should not penalize the military because senior civilians are underpaid. I do not believe that Mr. Korb meant to leave the conclusion that members of the military are overpaid because, as assistant secretary of defense for force management and personnel, he argued strongly for the large catch-up pay raises for the military in the early 1980s.

Finally, to clear up further possible misunderstandings of Mr. Korb's comments, most members of the military do pay for life insurance, and all are required to pay state income taxes unless their state has an exemption for those serving in the Armed Forces. Thirty-six states require those who are residents to pay taxes; 14 do not.

We will continue to support these different competitive pay rates for both military and federal civilian employees. DAVID J. ARMOR Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management and Personnel Washington