The federal government awarded $12.3 billion in procurement contracts to firms in the Washington-Baltimore area last year, making the region the third-largest recipient of government contracts in the country.

The region ranked behind only Los Angeles/Anaheim/Riverside, which received $22 billion, and New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island, which received $17 billion, according to a study by the Baltimore/Washington Regional Association.

The study was the first by the association to rank procurement contracts by consolidated regional markets.

"We hear consistently from federal contractors that the access to agencies is an incredible advantage. It allows a private company the immediate ability to access not only the people awarding the contracts, but the people managing the contract," said David Winstead of the association.

Procurement contracts awarded by the federal government include all stages of buying property or services, beginning with the process of determining a need for the product or service and ending with contract completion.

Nationwide, procurement spending rose from $110 billion in 1980 to $194 billion in 1985, an increase of 76 percent. The Baltimore-Washington area experienced an even more significant increase of 112 percent, up from $5.8 billion in 1980.

"It's a matter of being close to the flagpole," said Earle C. Williams, president of BDM International of McLean. "Clients want to be able to call you up in a moment's notice and have someone right there. I don't allocate all the responsibility for our success to the move from El Paso, Tex., to McLean in 1970 , but it took us 10 years to reach $4 million in sales in Texas. We moved here in 1971, and sales jumped to $7 million. Last year, sales hit $250 million."

More than 9,500 businesses in the area received contracts last year that averaged $265,000. About 319 regional firms received "major contracts" in excess of $5 million, the study reported. Some of the major contractors include Martin Marietta Corp., C3 Inc. and AAI Corp.

The Department of Defense generated more than half of the contracts last year, and more than three-fourths of the local contracts support the defense industry.

About $5.4 billion worth of the defense spending supported firms in service industries such as automatic data processing, marketing and financial management; $4.6 billion was used to purchase supplies and equipment, and $2.3 billion supported research and development.

Departments that decreased spending included the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration.

The obvious winner in the procurement contracts was the professional, technical and management services industry.

Last year, the industry received the majority of the contracts, with a share valued at about $2.8 billion.

Companies in this industry include architectural and engineering firms, marketing and public relations companies and auditing and financial firms.

The communications industry placed second, receiving about $1.3 billion in contracts.

The space research-and-development industry recorded the largest increase -- an 868 percent jump over the value of its contracts in 1980.

"There have been some services that the government has always contracted out such as in the software development and manufacturing industries. The federal agencies in Maryland and Virginia continue to grow, and because of that, there will be more of a need for contracted services," said a spokesman for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.).

USLICO Corp. of the District said its subsidiary, International Bank, will sell Kliklok Corp. of Connecticut to Captive Top Machines Inc. of Delaware for $25 million by the end of July.

Kliklok manufactures packaging machinery that it distributes worldwide.

"The sale of Kliklok completes USLICO's plan to divest itself of the assets in the light-industry field, which it acquired with the purchase of International Bank on Dec. 30, 1985," said Leslie P. Schultz, the president of USLICO.

USLICO is a holding company with five regional life insurance companies, a financial planning firm, a securities firm and International Bank.

A subsidiary of the 300-member Rowley-Scher Reprographics Inc. of Beltsville acquired WBH Associates of Bethesda this month.

The subsidiary, CAD Support Centers, was formed to provide CAD computer-aided design consulting services to companies in the real estate, architectural and construction fields. Through the acquisition of WBH Associates, the company will be able to offer a wider variety of services, such as large-scale plotting services and training of CAD users.

"From this acquisition, we will be able to offer plotting services that produce the hard copies of computer-aided architectural and engineering drawings. Many companies don't have those services in-house, and that's the gap we're trying to fill," said a spokesman for CAD Support Centers.

ANACAC Inc. in Arlington received a $4.6 million contract from the Navy to provide services for its Trident submarine program. The nine-month contract has a three-month renewal option valued at $1.4 million.

ANACAC works primarily for the Defense Department, supplying technical and engineering management services, such as financial management and technical support.

The Trident program is one of the Navy's major weapon systems programs, involving its Ohio-class submarines. Under the contract, ANACAC will provide financial management, logistics support and technical assessment for the program. ANACAC also will provide management and technical assessment for the Naval Trident Refit Facility submarine base in Kings Bay, Ga.