To the editor:

Your paper recently ran an AP story that began: "Vice President Dan Quayle once voted to slash spending for the Patriot missile that he has so effusively praised since the Persian Gulf war." The story concerned a classified 1983 vote in the Senate Armed Services committee.The story failed to make clear some crucial facts about that vote. First, the 1983 Patriot was not the missile that performed so ably against Iraqi Scuds. In 1983, the Patriot was a troubled anti-aircraft system that had been broadly criticized by independent studies.

In 1985, the Army recommended upgrading the Patriot and changing it to an anti-missile system. After years of partisan wrangling, including two sessions where the Democratic-controlled House voted to zero out funding for the Patriot, Dan Quayle and Senate Republicans succeeded in pushing through the upgrade to the anti-missile system that we saw on television this winter.

Second, the story failed to make clear that the 1983 vote was prompted by a senator in whose state the Patriot was manufactured. Sen. Edward Kennedy made no secret at the time that he was attempting to buy $177 million of additional 1983 Patriots in order to boost the Massachusetts economy.

It's ironic that the story you ran converts a party-line vote, in which Republicans essentially saved $177 million of taxpayer money, into a story critical of then-Sen. Quayle.

David C. Beckwith

Press secretary to the vice president