Congress-watchers believe that the right to retire at age 55, one of the most attractive features of the federal pension program, is safe this year despite the long knives that budget cutters have out for the retirement program.

Fourteen of every 100 federal workers are 55 or older. Many of them have enough time in government (30 years) to retire on an immediate annuity equal to about 53 percent of current salary. Although the average Civil Service retirement age is 61 (compared to 62 in the private sector), many U.S. workers like having the option of retiring "early" on immediate pensions.

For those workers, as well as younger employes planning to make a career of government, the prospect of having to work an extra 10 years is chilling. Raising the retirement age to 65 has long been a goal of the Reagan administration.

Raising the federal retirement age would save the government millions of dollars over the long haul. But the short-term savings are minimal compared to the political hassle the changeover would precipitate.

Senate and House budget conferees are looking for immediate savings as part of their plan to trim the federal deficit during the next three years. The two biggest cost-saving items they are considering are an increase in the employe contribution to the retirement fund (from 7 percent to 9 percent of salary) and freezing cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) next year.

If the Senate proposal to skip next year's Social Security and Civil Service COLAs is dropped by the conferees, they will turn their attention to other federal programs. But even though the higher retirement age is one of the options they might consider, nobody should lose any sleep over losing the early retirement option this year. Meetings

The American Society of Public Administration will hold its annual reception/award ceremonies at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Brookings Institution. For reservations call 549-5848.

American Society of Access Professionals Wednesday luncheon speaker is Australian Sen. Alan Missen. He helped develop the Freedom of Information Act down under. The luncheon location is the Empress restaurant. For reservations call 472-7453.