The so-called Sugarman plan to give special hiring breaks to women and monorities in government is, as they say at the Pentagon, in "deep standby." That means the program isn't dead but neither is it going anywhere soon.

Under the original plan, worked up by Jule Sugarman, deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management, agencies would have made occupational surveys of their employment, by race and sex, to determine if minority group members were "underrepresented." If so, a certain percentage of those jobs would have been set aside to give women and minorities a better chance to qualify for them, using untraditional civil service testing and selection methods.

Many members of Congress -- and federal union officials -- said the Sugarman plan was a sugar-coated quota system that would destroy merit hiring. Sugarman argued it was consistent with the equal employment goals of government, and would not do harm to government employment.

OPM (formerly the Civil Service Commission) was ready to implement the Sugarman plan last year when the House added language in the Defense money bill outlawing it in the Defense establishment. Since [DoD Army, Navy and Air Force] have nearly half the civilian population of government, administration officials have put the Sugarman plan on the back-burner. For now. But it is certain to be proposed again, and administration officials believe they can sell it to Congress if full hearings on the proposal are held.