The front-page article on July 23 {"Smithsonian Faces Major Budget Cuts"} may leave the public with the erroneous impression that the Smithsonian is about to close its doors. Without denying that we are feeling the effects of some budgetary limitations, our fiscal year 1991 request of $307.7 million (for the year beginning Oct. 1) to Congress is a sound one. It will allow the Smithsonian to make substantial progress in responding to national imperatives in such areas as cultural and biological diversity, repairing our aging physical facilities and laying the solid groundwork for new projects such as the National Museum of the American Indian.

The African American Institutional Study, which is exploring a number of options, is proceeding at full steam and is, indeed, one of the important priorities in our FY '91 request.

On July 24, the House appropriations subcommittee on interior and related agencies marked up our fiscal 1991 request, and its action was extremely favorable to the institution, providing funds in excess of our original submission. Of course, this is only the first stage of the budget process. While it is true that a Gramm-Rudman-Hollings sequestration of funds would be damaging to the Smithsonian, as it would to all agencies that receive federal funding, we are hopeful that a compromise will be reached between the president and Congress to avoid dramatic reductions.

We are confident that the public will continue to be able to enjoy the extraordinary heritage that is the Smithsonian's privilege to present to the nation and the world. ROBERT McC. ADAMS Secretary, Smithsonian Institution Washington