Patricia Anne Gwaltney is very calm. Very cool. She initiated the meeting.

He's all smiles and friendly conviviality when his secretary ushers her into his office. But he stays behind his desk. (Put her on the defensive.) This is his turf.

There's some polite conversation about President Carter's press conference and the announcement that he canceled the B-1 bomber.

She: "It's nice to know we have an independent thinker."

He: "I don't always agree with some of the small things he does, but on the big issues, we always agree."

Pause. Silence. Attack.

"I thought," begins Gwaltney, "that since we're responsible for similar territory, we ought to get together to make sure we aren't duplicating each other."

Parry. "Yes, I was going to contact you to see if anyone in your shop could be helpful to me," he says, nonchalantly.

Back and forth they go, ending with a promise to keep one another abreast of their progress. It's like some intricate, new chess moves in which the players try delicately to establish preeminence. It's President Carter's reorganization gambit, and, throughout the day. Gwaltney, at 29 a deputy associate director for human resources on the President's Reorganization Project, will make a few points, but be stalemated on several others.

Gwaltney is one of 150 people assigned to probe the federal government for ways to streamline and ostensibly improve the complex structure. It's been a long-held dream of several President to thwart the mushrooming federal bureaucracy. Few believe it can be done to the extent that Carter wants, although (Although yesterday's announcement of a 28 per cent cutback in White House staff bearly matches a Carter campaign pledge.) Some experts predict downright failure, but Gwaltney is one of the hard-core younb believers. And whatever Carter eventually structures for human resources program will have begun with Gwaltney and her staff of 12.

Gwaltney, a veteran of eight years in the federal employ with stints at HEW, the Commerce Department and the Senate Budget Committee, is the first to arrive at her office, temporary headquarters on the third floor of the New Executive Office Building. This is the quiet period of the day, 8:30, when there's time for a fresh pot of coffee and a look at her day's schedule. She makes up a list of things she plans to get done during the day and rushes off for a 9 o'clock meeting of other deputy associate directors with reorganization program associate director, Peter Szanton.

The meeting lasts an hour and is filled with phrases like "agenda setting," "allocation of resources," "structural changes," and "option papers." There are 78 people there and the meeting is exceptionally low-keyed with in-humor that only the participants, all of whom have been at their jobs of unraveling the federal government for only two months, understand.

One man describes his "surreal encounters" with a particular agency. There's talk of drafting work scheduled with a list of issues and a speech by Harrison Wellford, the Office of Management and Budget official who is heading the reorganization project, to the reorganization staff on what a "work program is and how to develop it."

"We're having a briefing from Harrison," someone says, looking around the room at the people wh say they've all heard it before. "Oh, well, the speech is optional."

Everyone laughs and the meeting dissolves as quietly as it has preceeded.

At times, reorganizing the federal bureaucracy can seem rather like bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon - a monumental task filled with frustration. An afternoon meeting at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where Gwaltney and several PRP staffers go to learn about the structure of BIA resource programs, is less than successful.

With the group drawn up in a circle, Gwaltney explains that she is interested in how certain programs work. The BIA official responds by giving her a lengthy history of the agency, how the federal government got into Indian affairs in the first place, the various facets of Indian affairs, how the federal government's relations with the Indian tribes are similar to relations with foreign countries, the environmental factors involved in the discovery of oil or coal on Indian land, and more and more and more. Everything, that is, except what she is not going to get her information.

She asks a few questions at the end of the man's dissertation. Do the Indians prefer to be called Indians, Native Americans, American-Indians, Amerindians, what? The official hasn't the slightest idea.

She explains later that she let the conversation continue because agency officials frequently feel threatened by reorganization staffers, but often relax after a few minutes when they realize their agency is not going to be melded into another. In this case, she feels, the ice at least has been proken. She and her staff can go back later, and talk to the people who know the programmatic information she needs for her job.

"We don't start out with an agenda," she says about the reorganization effort. "We're really in the process of trying to understand how the programs work and whether they can be improved. We don't underestimate the difficulty and opposition of some of the agencies.We try to ease that by contacting them early and often, but we will not be constrained. We're not trying to please everyone."

She says that the PRP doesn't discourage any of the agencies from reorganizing themselves. "HEW has done a lot of internal reorganization and based on what I know about the programs, it's been very poditive."

Gwaltney is striking neat, an attractive woman with a sunny complexion and clear bluish-green eyes. She if four or five years younger than most of the other deputy associate directors, but she is all business and efficiency. Several different people recommended her for the job and she says Welford "convinced me that this was a very exciting project and I ought to be involved. He was right.

"It's pretty much of a challenge to be asked to analyze and make recommendations to simplify hundreds of different programs."

Gwaltney grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, went to Mary Washington College and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

The demands of the job, Gwaltney says, are formidable. She works 11 to 12 hours a day, for four hours on Saturday, usually in the morning, and stops in the office for a couple of hours on Sunday "to keep a step ahead."

"These are the longest hours I've ever worked," she says, "but I don't feel at all as if all I do is work."

She's momentarily as a loss, though, when asked what she does to relax. "I, I play tennis, date, no particular person though. I might meet a friend for dinner at 9 o'clock. I don't know, but I really enjoy my work. I'm concerned not only that I be efficient and organized, but I've tried to discipline myself because what I do or don't do has an impact of 12 other people."