Leave it to novelist Tom Clancy {"Why Moscow Is No Match for America's Military," Outlook, Jan. 24} to transform a bipartisan issue -- military reform -- into a cause "sprouted" by those on the "left." The last major piece of military reform legislation was passed by Congress in 1986 -- it cleared the Senate by a vote of 95-0. Mr. Clancy will be pleased to note that it was named for that well-known senator of the "left," Barry Goldwater.

Mr. Clancy tells us that military reform is characterized by a single consistent thread: "the weapons it opposes have real offensive capability, and those it suggests have none at all." Where did that come from? The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 doesn't even mention weapons. The intent of the legislation is to systematize procedures to plan and direct war-fighting missions and to correct perceived management inefficiencies of the Defense Department. All of these changes were recommended by a blue-ribbon commission headed by David Packard and endorsed by Ronald Reagan. Mr. Packard and Mr. Reagan are hardly liberals.

Mr. Clancy then takes on conservatives for overestimating the Soviet military threat -- an apparent attempt to provide a balanced view. Using the Soviet battle cruiser Kirov as an example, he tells us the Soviet Navy provides a "target-rich environment," but fails to note that the U.S. Navy has the same problem. The United States now deploys more than 15 aircraft carriers -- all of them targets. "We have not accepted the vulnerability of the aircraft carrier," defense analyst Edward Luttwak told a congressional committee in 1987. "We have resisted it." So has Mr. Clancy.

MARK PERRY Arlington