Are the government's 6,500-plus career executives, most of them dwellers in the Potomac River Valley, an endangered species?

A lot of the supergraders think so. And so do some congressional Democrats who are curious about top-level reorganizations in progress or in the works in many federal agencies.

Because of pending and rumored topside changes, many executives (not to mention their families, moving companies and real estate agents) have an interest in a couple of congressional hearings coming up next week.

The House Civil Service subcommittee and the subcommittee that handles the General Services Administration's budget have invited GSA chief Gerald Carmen to testify on shakeups in his agency. They have resulted in downgrading (and some pay cuts) for top career people he inherited. GSA also plans to move 17 of its 80 Senior Executive Service people here to the field.

Carmen, a Republican New Hampshire businessman, says the actions are simply good management, and are in accordance with the Civil Service Reform Act. It became law two years ago when the Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate and the House. A primary element of the CS Reform Act was the creation of the SES. Grade 16, 17 and 18 executives who enrolled in it (95 percent did) traded much of their tenure, and agreed to be ready to move (on 15 days notice) or resign, in return for better pay and assignments. SES members generally get $58,500 a year, about $1,000 more than the top civil service salary.

Two weeks ago Carmen downgraded more than a dozen SES members--based, he said, on a study of the jobs and performance. Then he announced transfers to the field to be effective later this month.

One of the officials is due to go to Philadelphia. His wife has been assigned to New York City.

Another man slated for transfer, to Denver, is a former Democratic staffer of the House Post Office-Civil Service Committee. Before joining GSA he became a career executive with the Office of Personnel Management, where he was a member of the OPM team that worked on the creation of the SES.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) has asked Carmen to appear before her Civil Service subcommittee to explain the transfers. She says some of them don't make sense, that some of the people being reassigned are slated to go into jobs where they have no expertise.

The subcommittee that handles GSA's budget, chaired by Rep. Edward Roybal (D-Calif.), wants Carmen to come up and talk about the shakeups.

Carmen says he wants to get responsible people out in the real world beyond the beltway. Cynics say that some of the transfers appear designed to force the executives to quit, rather than face exile from Washington.

While most of the executive shuffling is taking place at GSA, it isn't the only place where high-level careerists are sweating.

Department of Energy, for example, has just reevaluated the job performance of its SES types, and some of them, who got good marks last year, have come up with bad report cards which could put them out on their ear. Energy has decided that 37 of its SES jobs are "excess."

Bureau of Land Management recently told one of its top staffers, who reportedly irked some big coal companies in Idaho, to move from Boise to Arizona or quit. He quit.