about five feet.

That's how tall federal budget examiner Penny Jacobs is. Her stature became a public issue this week when budget director David Stockman praised her to a Senate subcommittee as "a little girl who works day and night."

"How big is she?" Sen. William Proxmire (D.-Wis.) demanded of Stockman. That was Monday. Yesterday the question was still echoing in the corridors of power.

"She is short, but extraordinarily intelligent and very hard-working," said Barry Anderson, Jacobs' superior at the Office of Management and Budget, who, at six feet, is chief of the commerce branch.

"She sees her work as a high calling," said Connie Horner, 5 feet 9, the OMB's associate director of economics and government.

" 'Little girl' is just not an expression ordinarily used in today's world to describe a competent professional person," huffed Proxmire aide Morton Schwartz, who is 5 feet 9.

Penny Jacobs, for her part, gave the matter short shrift.

"I don't think it's anything to make a big deal over," said the OMB's expert on -- what else? -- the Small Business Administration. "I'm 31, but I do look a lot younger than my age."

The Reagan administration has been trying to eliminate the SBA, and at Monday's hearing Stockman praised her role in the effort.

Asked by Proxmire if it was necessary to spend time studying an agency already targeted for elimination, Stockman replied, "Let me give you one example. We've got one examiner -- a little girl who works day and night -- on the whole SBA."

The forces marshaled against "this one little girl," Stockman said, include 5,000 SBA employes and "dozens of paid lobbyists in town who spend their whole lives trying to keep these miserable SBA programs alive . . . This poor girl had to stay up all night and draft her husband -- who doesn't even work for the federal government -- to work all weekend trying to get my testimony done in time so I could go out there and face all those people."

It was then that Proxmire popped the question about size.

"Well, between the two of them," Stockman answered, apparently including the drafted husband in the equation, "they probably average 5 foot 3."

Jim Flemming, Jacobs' husband, who does work for the government as a physical chemist for the Naval Research Laboratory, figures the average at more like 5 feet 5. "I'm 5-10," he said.

He confirmed that he spent an entire weekend in February helping his wife add endless columns of SBA budget figures. "I was drafted in the sense that I wanted to spend some time with her.

"I don't think she's that short," he added.

Stockman's height, meanwhile, remains a mystery.

"I wouldn't even dream of finding out," said the 5-foot-10 OMB spokesman, Ed Dale.