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Instead of Worrying About Defense Firms, Let's Rebuild Our Tattered Infrastructure

February 11, 1990

If ever a writer was guilty of ignoring the forest for the trees, Jon B. Kutler must stand convicted ("Downsizing America's Defense Industry," Jan. 21). Kutler argues that with the prospect of a shrinking defense budget, aerospace corporations should consider ways to "consolidate" their research and production efforts with each other. He bemoans the fact that the Reagan Administration did not encourage this trend, and now the defense industry will find itself shut out in the face of the new social and economic realities of a world moving toward peace.

If that is indeed the case, the issue is not how to "downsize" the defense industry, but how to recycle the billions of tax dollars wasted on destructive weapons into productive, politically responsible spending on social needs.

Military spending has made a serious casualty of domestic social and structural needs. While the weapons makers were busily experimenting with their new formulas and destructive toys, the nation's infrastructure was going to pot; schools, hospitals, libraries, highways, bridges and transportation systems were decaying. The industrial work force was rapidly shrinking as $18-an-hour auto and steel workers suddenly found themselves competing for lower-wage service and fast-food jobs. This in turn spawned a wide array of social problems from drugs and crime to illiteracy that plague us today.

With the window of peace opening wider each day, the defense industry has a golden opportunity to channel at least a portion of its prodigious technical skills and resources toward reconstruction of our nation's social institutions rather than destruction of mythical enemies.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON

Inglewood

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