The Nov. 12 oped coulmn "Pay Raises Aren't the Priority" suggested that "observers of the defense budget" -- not otherwise identified -- were "surprised" that increasing pay and improving retirement for those in uniform was a priority for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense.

To the contrary, the pay raise and retirement package proposed by the department, enhanced by Congress and signed by the president, was no surprise and was both fair and necessary. America is experiencing unprecedented economic prosperity, with the result that recruiting and retaining top-quality men and women is more difficult. So, out of fairness to our service members and to retain the personnel we need, a 4.8 percent pay increase was enacted.

Along with the pay raise came a management reform in the pay table. This table lists pay for service members by rank and years of service. The reform recognizes performance, measured through promotion, with a greater raise than that received for length of service. While some of our service members will receive up to an additional 5.5 percent increase in basic pay, all members passing through those points in the future will benefit from this change.

The article misstated this change by saying that service members are offered "additional bonuses" for performance. A bonus is a one-time affair; we've made structural changes in the way we pay people.

RUDY DE LEON

Under Secretary

U.S. Department of Defense

Washington

Jon Rosenwasser's Nov. 12 op-ed article asserted that the recent improvements to quality-of-life programs for military people were unnecessary. However, the urgency to fix personnel resulted from the underfunding of the defense budget for the past seven years. The $150 billion shortfall cited by Mr. Rosenwasser is the harsh reality of the president's defense budgets, notwithstanding increases insisted on by Congress.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that military families are both overworked and untouched by America's economic boom. The package of pay, bonuses, allowances, tax-deferred savings and retirement reform that was adopted is the first step in a multiyear strategy to address our military personnel crisis. If we do not realistically finance our defense programs immediately, we will at some point fail a crucial test -- undoubtedly at the expense of many lives.

STEVE BUYER

U.S. Representative (R-Ind.)

Washington

The writer chairs the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.