The Pentagon owes the American taxpayers an explanation for a couple of things besides the big new scandal involving bribery and fraud in the awarding of defense contracts.

First, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported a few days ago that the Pentagon reimburses defense contractors an average of $2,344 a year per employee for health insurance. That's twice the amount the federal government contributes toward health care insurance for its own workers.This situation raises two questions:

Why should the government finance better health care for private workers than for its own?

Why should the taxpayers be asked to pick up this extra burden? The GAO's study of 10 major defense contractors indicates that the government would save $500 million dollars a year on these 10 alone if it reimbursed the contractors at the same rate it contributes to federal workers.

Second, a new study by the Defense Department has found that the armed forces have 7,300 more warriors than they need sitting at desks. The duplicative regional headquarters units around the world that employ these service personnel divert $300 million a year from more pressing needs, such as combat readiness. In fact, the study concludes that many of these overlapping bureaucracies would merely get in the way if Washington needed to respond decisively to a crisis.

The Defense Department deserves credit for monitoring waste in some parts of its own organization. How about a similar review of excess personnel at its biggest headquarters - the five-sided one on the Potomac?

One final point: Judging from the two new studies, the more closely one looks at the Pentagon, the more questionable some of its practices seem to be. At the very least, this suggests the need for keeping the Pentagon under continuing scrutiny.