No one disputed the outcome.

All 62,000 of the Air Force recruits literally were getting clipped, shorn of their often long and ragged locks of hair.

And, at 95 cents each, the haircuts seemed like a bargain.

But the Air Force had resisted even that, contending that the quick "buzz" over the scalp was part of a recruit's indoctrination and that it was the least a grateful nation owed the newest members of the military.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee disagreed. After all, this is the era of "budget constraints" and even the Marines are charging their recruits for the privilege of becoming a skinhead, noted Williston B. Cofer, a committee staffer.

If one service charges, then all should charge, the committee told the Air Force last year.

Moreover, there was a dispute at Lackland Air Force Base over should do the haircuts, which with 62,000 recruits a year is not a small business.

So the readiness subcommittee, headed by Rep. Dan Daniel (D-Va.), as conservative as anybody else from Virginia, turned the issue over to the General Accounting Office. In February, the GAO dispatched Martin M. Ferber, an associate director, to Lackland to investigate.

Ferber said yesterday that although the Air Force had been "the last holdout" in charging its recruits for their first military haircuts, he found no evidence that the recruits were not paying -- and none that the Air Force's contract with the barber who won the haircut contract at the Texas base was improper.

Moreover, the price at Lackland, the Air Force's only recruit base, remains a good buy, if you like short hair, Ferber said.

An Army recruit can pay as much as $2.45 for his initial haircut, Ferber noted in a 21-page report. A Navy recruit pays from $1.30 to $2.25 and a Marine, $1.60 to $1.63.

Female recruits also must have military haircuts and are charged higher prices, but the report did not compare those.