The treatment of the president's Maine vacation has emphasized the contrast between his pleasant surroundings and the arduous circumstances thousands of servicemen and women are experiencing in Saudi Arabia. The thrust of your coverage suggests that remaining in Maine is a judgment call by the president and that he can keep on top of developments in Kennebunkport -- so what is the problem?

Cost. Every member of the president's large retinue is on a per diem, which undoubtedly exceeds $100 a day. Then there is the cost in dollars and fuel for all that travel to and from Washington for Bush and his political and military advisers. Communications and overtime for Secret Service agents are further expenses. Altogether, costs may well approximate $50,000 to $100,000 a day.

If you supplied complete and accurate cost figures, taxpayers might see how many federal employees will have to be furloughed to pay for this presidential vacation.

Perhaps those to be furloughed are the ones the president was referring to when he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Baltimore on Aug. 20 that our commitment in the Gulf would require "personal sacrifice." -- Eugene J. Carroll Jr. The writer is deputy director of the Center for Defense Information.