In a 1992 budget request that asks for increased funding for federal arts and humanities agencies, the White House was less generous to one agency: the beleaguered National Endowment for the Arts.

The proposed White House fiscal 1992 budget, sent to Congress yesterday, asks for increases of 15 percent for the Smithsonian Institution, 16 percent for the National Gallery of Art, 5 percent for the National Endowment for the Humanities and 4 percent for the Institute of Museum Services, but keeps the NEA budget flat at $174 million.

If the proposed hike from $170 million to $178 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities is passed by Congress, it would mark the first time an NEH allocation has surpassed the NEA's.

"It's too bad {NEA Chairman} John Frohnmayer's spouse isn't secretary of defense -- perhaps we'd have gotten it," said Rep. Bob Carr (D-Mich.), chairman of the Congressional Arts Caucus. "My hat's off to {NEH Chairman} Lynne Cheney -- I think she's done a good job, but I just thought NEA could have gotten as much as NEH.

"I think probably what's happened is we're seeing the relative standing of the individuals involved vis-a-vis the Office of Management and Budget and {OMB Director Richard} Darman and who's got good contacts in OMB -- not a reflection of national needs but who's a better infighter."

Frohnmayer could not be reached for comment.

Lynne Cheney said of the disparate budget amounts: "I think it's probably wrong to constantly compare and contrast the two agencies even though we are both in the same appropriations category. Perhaps the relevant question is to ask why we don't have as much money as the National Science Foundation."

The introduction to the budget mentions the PBS series "The Civil War," which the NEH helped fund, and Cheney pointed to that wildly popular series as an example of NEH-supported educational programs "outside the formal forums of education.

"We have a little budget so it doesn't take much money to give us an increase, but I feel very grateful for the endorsement of our efforts over here," Cheney said yesterday. "If there's one overall emphasis that is reflected in this year's budget, and indeed in the last four years, it's education, and education at all levels."

The additional $46 million requested for the Smithsonian would bring the institution's budget to $357 million. Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams said in a statement yesterday that any new money would not drastically expand programs, but would go instead toward costs beyond the institution's control, including a number of renovation projects and several programs to which the Smithsonian has long been committed, foremost among them continuing work on the National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Gallery of Art's proposed $58 million is up $8 million from last year's congressional allocation. The budget includes $4 million to begin construction on the gallery's National Sculpture Garden on the Mall.

The budget request also includes $23 million for the Kennedy Center, to cover maintenance of the building and a continuing renovation of the center's garage.