Jim Harrison, 37, is one the verge of big things. His last several performance ratings have been "outstanding." He has nearly 12 years experience as a military personnel specialist. He is single and flexible.

And he says he is "positive I won't be moving" to Indiana from his apartment at 1930 Columbia Rd. NW.

Despite strong prospects of a promotion from his present GS-7 level, Harrison said he sees "no inducement in going to Indiana . . . I like to operate out of Washington, D.C. I go to New York and Atlanta a lot. I can't imagine leaving for those places from Indiana."

On April 26, the Army announced that it is studying the possibility of moving its Military Personnel Center from Alexandria to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind.

Nearly 3,000 jobs hang in the balance, almost 2,000 of them held by civilians. The affected employes all work in the Hoffman Building, a twin-tower high-rise office at Telegraph Road and the Beltway.

If they all moved to Indiana, it would be the largest shift of federal employes in one agency away from the Washington area since World War II.

The move is one of 107 moves and consolidations being considered by the Defense Department. If all 107 are approved, total savings would be $337 million. More than 23,000 jobs would be eliminated in the process, 8,600 of them held by civilians.

The personnel center, known as MILPERCEN in Army lingo, is responsible for administering the Army careers of 740,000 persons, including all enlisted personnel and most officers.

MILPERCEN keeps records, assures that personnel are being trained to meet needs for specific skills, processes enlistments and reenlistments and tracks the careers of individual soldiers to be sure that the soldiers are progressing. "It's sort of cradle to grave," said Maj. Gen. Charles K. Heiden, MILPERCEN's commander.

But now the agency is becoming embroiled in the greatest controversy in its five-year history.

When the possibility of a move to Indiana was announced, it was immediately assailed by a Northern Virginia congressman, by the union that represents MILPERCEN's civilian employes and by the great majority of employes, themselves.

Rep. Herbert R. Harris II (D-Va.) called the proposed shift "moving bodies for the sake of moving bodies." Harris aide Jim Kenney called the move "a lousy idea. Hopefully, when the Army studies it, they'll think it's a lousy idea, too."

Local 2 of the American Federation of Government Employes filed a verbal complaint with the Department of the Army. Pat Strong, Local 2's business agent, acknowledged that the union has no legal or contractual power to block such a move, but she said "active" steps are being considered anway.

Meanwhile, in the 15 floors of offices MILPERCEN occupies at the Hoffman Building, civilian employes, by their own descriptions, are "apprehensive," "concerned" and "worried."

If they do not followed their jobs to Indiana - and no more than 15 percent would be expected to - they would not be assured of another job with the Army or the Department of Defense. Nor is there any certainty that they would be given preferential rehiring status elsewhere in the government.

Losing 85 percent of a civilian work force would not normally cause the Army great concern, for most of those people are clerks and typists and have skills that could be replaced at an agency's new home relatively easily. Such would certainly seem at first glance to be the case with MILPERCEN. Fort Harrison is just outside Indianapolis, a city of half a million people with unemployment levels close to 9 percent.

But MILPERCEN has "a devoted and highly specialized work force," Heiden said. "I'd have to be concerned work force (if the agency moves.)"

No move would come before mid-1979 at the earliest. The Army's deputy chief of staff will study the pros and cons for the eight months that began April 26. After that, according to Maj. Dale Keller, a Pentagon spokesman, the Department of the Army will conduct a complete review, followed by a 30-day public comment period.

The eight-month study will be a "formal and extensive analysis," Keller said. Its criteria will be "all the operational, budgetary, socioeconomic, environmental and community aspects" of the proposed move. Heiden said MILPERCEN's civilian employes will be kept "carefully" informed at every step.

Neither Heiden nor Keller would speculate on which way they think the decision will go. "I can't make a call right now," Heiden said. Nor were several senior civilian employes sure which way the wind is blowing. One 29-year veteran said the Army seems more serious about this proposed move than any of the three rumored ones earlier in his career. But he noted that "this is still far from a certainty."

The Army would have two main reasons for moving MILPERCEN to Indiana: the declared policy of the Pentagon to reduce civilian employment and overhead and the ease with which MILPERCEN could mesh with the Army's finance center, which moved from Washington to Fort Harrison in 1953.

But logistical advantages run headon into two facts: more than 70 percent of MILPERCEN's civilian work force is female, and more than 85 percent has at least five years of roots (including mortgages) in the Washington area.

Kitty Schafe's situation appears typical. A clerk in MILPERCEN's monetary incentives branch, she lives in Alexandria with her husband and two of her four children.

"I couldn't possibly go (to Indiana)," she said. "I was born in D.C. and raised here. We have our home established here. My husband could never make the move . . . All I can do is hope it doesn't happen."

Francis Smoake of Northeast Washington, a 29-year veteran of government service, noted that a move to Indiana might mean more buying power for his GS-12 salary, since the Midwest's cost of living is lower than Washington's. His wife's "first inclination," said Smoak, 48. But after reflection, "It would still be quite expensive. Besides, all my family ties are here," Smoak said.

Dominic Ciccotelli, of Alexandria, was one of the few civilian employes to see advantages in the proposed move, although he said he would not move to Indiana himself.

"It can be done. It can work real well. I cannot argue against such a move (if) . . . it's in the best interests of the Army," said Ciccotelli, 57, a legislative inspection audit contact officer.

"But I would vote against it. You have access here, access to Army headquarters." If the move is made, MILPERCEN "would be hurting for two years," Ciccotelli predicted.

MILPERCEN is far from the only military agency being considered for changes early next year. The agency was one of 107 military facilities in 30 states and the District targeted for possible moves, transfers or closings.

In the District, the list includes three agencies now assigned to the Navy Yard:

The Chesapeake Division of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command might move to Philadelphia (301 civilian jobs, 13 military). So might the Military Sealift Command Headquarters (259 civilian jobs, 48 military). The Navy Exhibit Center might move to Great Lakes, Ill. (13 civilian jobs, 16 military).

In Maryland, 42 civilian and 127 military jobs are under study. One hundred sixteen would disappear if the navy closes its hospital in Annapolis. The remainder would go if the Air Force closes its radar site at Fort Meade.

In Virginia, besides MILPERCEN, the Army is considering transferring 1,614 civilian and 1,271 military jobs out of the state, eliminating 286 civilian and 18 military jobs and transferring 301 civilian slots and one military job into the state.

All the lost slots would be in the Tidewater area. Two hundred twenty nine slots would be gained by Arlington, the rest by Petersburg.

The Navy is considering three moves in Virginia: Moving the Navy Audit Service from Falls Church to Philadelphia (38 civilian jobs, nine military), transferring the Navy Recruiting Command from Arlington to Great Lakes, Ill. (182 civilian positions, 167 military) and closing the hospital at Quantico (39 civilian jobs, 135 military).