Bradley Graham's Dec. 14 news story, "Pentagon Anthrax Program Suffers Setback," hit on the latest problem to plague the Department of Defense's anthrax vaccine program. The Post called the new facility's failure to pass its first safety inspection a "setback," but it poses a significant problem for the 2.4 million members of the armed services who are mandated to take the anthrax vaccine.

Last year, the federal government entered into a sole-source contract with BioPort Corp., knowing that the company was not licensed to manufacture the vaccine. Still, the Department of Defense recently doubled the price tag of the original contract to cover the company's debt. This, of course, was in addition to the $112 million the department has provided since 1988 to ensure the viability of the anthrax vaccine production facility.

Now, as shot dates are approaching and the vaccine is running low, BioPort could not legally produce the vaccine if it wanted to. For a program plagued with discrepancies, overdue--and therefore potentially ineffective--inoculations serve as yet another in a long list of problems that necessitate reconsideration of the mandatory nature of the Department of Defense's anthrax vaccination program.

WALTER B. JONES

U.S. Representative (R-N.C.)

Washington