Friends and foes of Donald J. Devine are wondering what is next for the Office of Personnel Management director, the best-known and most controversial watchdog ever appointed to oversee the federal Civil Service system.

His term expires in April and, if reappointed, he must be reconfirmed by the Senate.

Supporters of the former University of Maryland political science professor credit him with cutting federal employment, putting major cost controls on the government health program and setting the agenda for upcoming changes in the government retirement program.

Devine's detractors believe he is the driving force behind this administration's attempt to dismantle the federal merit system, and they say he has driven civil service morale to its lowest point.

Friends of the conservative OPM chief -- who campaigned in North Carolina for the reelection of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms and in Michigan to help defeat Democratic Rep. Don Albosta -- would like to see him stay on, or be given a bigger job in the administration.

There was preelection talk that Devine might take over the Office of Management and Budget, when and if David Stockman leaves. Now Devine's hat is one of several in the ring to succeed departing Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.