In a move to make sure the federal bureaucracy understands and obeys policies of the Reagan administration, the head of the Office of Personnel Management yesterday appointed five new special assistants to be his eyes and ears outside of Washington.

The five political assistants will report directly to OPM chief Donald J. Devine and act as his liaison with 10 career regional officials who manage operations of the independent agency that oversees the government's merit system and coordinates out-of-town activities of many agencies through Federal Executive Boards.

In a related development, Devine announced he will name Mark Tapscott, now editor of the Conservative Digest, to be public affairs chief. He will replace Patrick Korten, who will assume the newly created post of executive assistant director for policy and communications.

The five new Grade 14 ($41,277 to $53,661) special assistants will each be responsible for two OPM regions. Working directly for Devine, they will advise career regional directors (who outrank them in grade and pay) as to civil service policies of the Reagan administration, and keep Devine posted on how they are being carried out.

They will also monitor other OPM activities in their regions, which include such things as the operation of the Combined Federal Campaign and Federal Executive Boards. The FEBs are made up of top U.S. government representatives from various agencies in each of the nation's major cities.

OPM spokesman Patrick Korten said the new Schedule C (noncareer) appointees are "not going to be super regional directors." He said their job will be to help the career regional directors who sometimes "cannot get a fix on what policy is" and tell them "where we are going policywise."

Korten said OPM could have done "like many other agencies" and made regional director jobs political. Instead, he said, OPM decided to have "some political presence out there without interfering with" regular operations.

The five new political officials are:

Joseph R. Root, who has served with the Interstate Commerce Commission, for the New York/Boston regions.

Alan M. Wandling, a public relations specialist who worked with the Government Printing Office, for the Philadelphia/Atlanta regions.

Brian E. Carey, a human resources consultant who has worked for Montgomery Ward, for the Chicago/St. Louis regions.

Gary Giesick, president of a Billings, Mont., tire company, for the Denver/Dallas regions.

Bertha S. Nelson, director of Diamond Oaks Vineyard, for the Seattle/San Francisco regions.

In changes closer to home, Devine named Terry Culler to become assistant director for planning and evaluation. He replaces Michael Sanera, who returns to Arizona State University. George Woloshyn, who was with Amtrak before joining OPM, moves up to be deputy associate director for compliance and investigation.

Career man Anthony Ingrassia will be reassigned to be assistant director for agency compliance and evaluation. He had headed OPM's Office of Labor-Management Relations for many years under both Democratic and Republican regimes.

OPM officials said the changes will give Devine greater control over the agency, and make sure OPM field officials are up to date on administration policies.

The agency hopes to drum up public support for some major changes it plans -- some requiring legislation -- in federal pay and fringe benefits, and other bread-and-butter items relating to the 2.8 million civil servants.

The new direct pipeline from Devine to the field will, they hope, ensure that regional officials understand what is expected of them in talking with local civic groups and the news media.