A General Accounting Office study of consultant contracts awarded by the Defense Department has found that three-fourths of the projects, valued at $2.6 billion, went to former Pentagon employes and discovered waste and mismanagement in all but one of 256 randomly selected contracts.

The GAO investigation, requested last year by Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) and then-rep. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.), found numerous instances in which former high-ranking Defense employes were awarded Pentagon contracts without competitive bidding.

Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.), who succeeded Harris as chairman of the House subcommittee on human resources, said yesterday, "When we're talking about spending $30 billion more on defense . . . we better be getting our money's worth in a stronger military and not paying hotshot consultants to talk about a stronger military."

Pryor, who with Harris pushed for reduced appropriations for consultants in the past two years, said, "Congress should act promptly on consultant reform legislation."

Pentagon spokesman John Becker said the Defense Department wants to review the report before commenting.

Ferraro said she was "particularly concerned that 82 percent of the conpetition." The finding that 70 percent of questinable contracts went to ex-Pentagon officials "raised the issue of former employes exerting influence to obtain lucrative, unnecessary contract," she said.

The report was the 30th issued by the GAO in the last 20 years detailing abuses in consultant contracts, leading the watchdog agency to comment that while it normally is opposed to legislative remedies, "this problem is serious enough in DOD to warrant legislative action."

Among the consultants cited by the report were:

Systems Research and Applications Corp. of Arlington and Reston, granted a sole-source contract for $340,018 to help Defense develop a mobilization plan. Consultants employed by the contractor included a former vice chief of the Army, a retired Air Force general and an ex-deputy assistant secretary of the Army. GAO said the work should have been done by the Pentagon.

Burt Associates of Bethesda, which received a $470,000 contract to survey drug and alcohol abuse in the military. Burt's vice president formerlly worked in the assistant secretary of Defense's office of drug and alcohol abuse prevention.

Administrative Sciences Corp. of Falls Church, which made an unsolicited proposal to the Navy and was awarded a $527,632 contract to assess the Navy's wartime manpower. GAO said the contractor's leading expert formerly held a high-ranking position in the office of chief of naval operations.