Bruce Uthus, 78, a manpower and security specialist with the federal government for 27 years, died of apparent pneumonia Tuesday in Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital in Arlington.

Mr. Uthus was born in Chicago and earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois. After running his own architectural and engineering firm in Milwaukee for 10 years, he became a administrator with the federal Work Progress Administration in Wisconsin in 1935. A year later he was transferred to Chicago and came to Washington in 1940 to help direct WPA employees into wartime industries.

He worked on a number of federal manpower projects during World War II, including ones for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the Office of Emergency Management.

In 1947 he became assistant director of security and national military plans for the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1955 he joined the Housing and Home Finance Agency and organized an internal audit of its operations. He retired from government service in 1962, but continued as a consultant to various agencies until 1971.

He resided in Arlington at the time of his death.

Survivors include a daughter, Mrs. Gerry Pettibone, of Charlotte, N.C.; two sisters, Mrs. William Mildbrandt, of Milwaukee, and MRs. Hal C. Gregg, of Cleveland; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.