During its first full five months in office the Carter administration moved at about double the speed of the Nixon talent scouts in dumping political incumbents and placing top-level appointees of their own throughout government.

Data from the Civil Service Commission shows that the Carter team has been neither slow (as some patronage-hungry Democrats claim) nor timid (as some bureaucrats looking for leadership feel) in putting its own men and women into key policy-making positions in the federal establishment.

Between late January and June of 169, Nixon administration officials filled only 77 of the 466 political supergrade (GS 16, 17 and 18) slots available to the new administration. During the same time period this year, the Carter people had filled 157 of the 495 supergrade political vacancies between mid-January and June.

Grade 16 now starts at $39,629 while Grade 18 pays a flat $47,500. There are thousands of career supergraders in the government, but only about 495 of the jobs (466 when Nixon took over from Johnson) now are available to the new administration to fill as it wishes. Those positions are called NEAs (for Noncareer Executive Assignment). They work directly under cabinet and agency heads, and supervise the much larger army of political and policy-making workers in Schedule C, and of course, the 1.1 million white-collar career civil servants.

Schedule C employees are also in the policy-making, political or confidential area. That means they serve at the pleasure of their boss, without tenure of regular civil service. Schedule can cover any job - from chauffeur to top manager - but most are in the middle and upper government grades, ranging from GS 11 to GS 15. Grade 15, for example, pays 33, 789.

Government data on the NEA and Schedule C jobs also shows a trend, since Nixon, to having fewer Schedule C jobs and slightly more NEA positions for the President, or his appointees, to fill.

There were 1,619 Schedule C jobs in 1968, the last year of the Johnson Administration, and 459 of the high-paying NEA positions.

In 1969, after Nixon took over, the number of Schedule Cs went up to 1,702, and the NEA job were listed at 502. The totals hit a peak in 1971, when there were 2,003 Schedule C workers and 562 NEA employees. The next year Schedule C dropped to 1,798 while the NEA group hit 509, then went up again the next year to 564. The number of Schedule Cs, has continued to decrease while the NEA total has gone up, then down slightly, but generally on the upward curve. At the end of 1976 there were 495 NEA jobs and 1,478 Schedule C jobs.

It appears that the Nixon administration placed a greater emphasis on top management, by getting more NEA positions available for its appointees while letting the lower-level Schedule C pool decline in numbers. (During that time CSC also cracked down on Schedule C vacancies, making agencies justify positions which went unfilled for long periods of time).

Most federal officials say they don't know what to make of the speed of Carter vs. Nixon appointments. One personnel director said it appeared the Carter people were better organized to take over. Another personnel man, a long-time career employee, said it could mean Carter was under more pressure to "get rid of Republicans" fast, and that the quick pace might account for some of the young people with relatively low pregovernment salaries who have been put into important jobs.

Whatever it means, and maybe it is none of the above, it is clear from the figures that Carter has been anything but slow in trying to get a handle on the machinery of government.