America's Merchant Marine is in sad shape, the Coast Guard is undermanned and there are too few officers in the Navy, the president of the Navy League of the United States told a group of Utahns Friday night.

Jack H. Morse, San Diego, president of the 69,000-member national educational and information organization since May of last year, told local league members and others attending a dinner in the Tri-Arc Hotel, 161 W. Sixth South, that America depends too much on other nations' fleets of merchant ships for its supplies from overseas and its shipments of goods abroad."Our Merchant Marine fleet has shrunk to about 300 ships and many of them are dedicated to hauling oil from Alaska and war materials to our troops. Our merchant fleet now ranks only 9th to 12th in the world - a dangerously low level if a conflict should erupt or an oil embargo be put into effect or some shipping cartel decide to become unfriendly."

Morse, 65, a Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean War and corporate community affairs representative for the San Diego Gas & ELectric Co., said the United States ships out and imports more than $1 billion worth of goods a day and needs to consider bolstering its Merchant Marine fleet for both defensive and economic reasons.

He said he is concerned also about the Coast Guard, which, he said, "is too small for the job it has to do. It gets too little attention from Congress. There are only 44,000 people in the Coast Guard, compared with 600,000 in the Navy and 200,000 in the Marines.

"The Coast Guard is undermanned and undershipped for its large and varied responsibilities."

Morse said the Navy's budget is under attack from Congress and neither presidential candidate has paid enough attention to the Navy in his campaigning. "Congress last year approved the construction of two new aircraft carriers, which are supposed to be ready by 1996 and 1997, but I'm afraid, from listening to our presidential candidates, that the much-needed carriers may be scratched from the budget."

He said moves are afoot to cut the number of naval officers, too, and force flag officers to spend time in the Army and Air Force, which, he said, "is impractical."