The party was open, and throughout the afternoon people full of holiday cheer sauntered in and out of the Pentagon offices where the Air Force's tactical division staff was throwing its Christmas bash. This week, however, Air Force officials labeled the event "offensive and in bad taste."

The entertainment, anyway.

The Air Force has disciplined several officers who hired a topless dancer to perform at the party in Pentagon basement offices during working hours the week before Christmas. Air Force officials said "appropriate action" had been taken against the officers but declined to give further details, citing federal privacy laws.

"There was no problem with the party itself," Air Force spokesman Capt. John Whitaker said yesterday. "The problem was the entertainment." Whitaker said the dancer's performance violated policies banning practices that lack propriety.

"I don't know whether it was offensive," Whitaker said, "but it was obviously considered not in good taste and an embarrassment to the Air Force."

The performance of the woman, whom Air Force officials declined to identify, was paid for with money collected from the officers, he said. Officials began investigating the matter after a media inquiry earlier this month, Whitaker said. "People knew about it," he said, "but the press inquiry prompted us to look into it."

Air Force Secretary Verne Orr and Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Gabriel have since been told of the event, Whitaker said.

Lt. Gen John Chain, deputy chief of staff for plans and operations of the division that gave the party, did not attend, Whitaker said, although scores of civilian and military employes did.