Unless there is a major economic setback this year, the area's 400,000 federal workers will probably get 3 percent raises in January while more than 100,000 retired civil service and military personnel here can look forward to a modest cost-of-living adjustment of between 2 percent and 3 percent.

Despite tough talk and a number of proposals -- some serious, some frivolous -- to make deeper cuts in the federal payroll, the budget that Congress approved just before the Independence Day recess rejects various economy plans and calls for the first federal pay raise since January 1985.

That budget, for the fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1, does not include extending the COLA freeze that cost retirees a 3.1 percent inflation catch-up in January because of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings amendment to the deficit reduction act.

The recent Supreme Court action invalidating some of the procedures of the balanced budget law makes it possible -- but unlikely -- that Congress could restore the COLA that retirees lost this year.

The new budget also rejects a Senate proposal to delay for one year in-grade raises (based on longevity and performance) for all federal workers.

Despite the pay freeze this year, about one-third of the work force received 3 percent increases based on performance and time in grade.

The Senate originally had requested that any increases coming due after October be delayed for one year.

Uncle Sam will be required to cut federal personnel costs (now running about $80 billion a year) by $100 million in each of the next three years, but the budget does not specify where those cuts must be made.

At one time, the Senate had proposed that $200 million be cut from the cost of the federal employe health program, but that was dropped in conference.

The next big ticket item federal workers face in Congress is the tax reform legislation.

The Senate and House have approved plans to eliminate the so-called three-year recovery period that allows retirees to get back their previously taxed pension plan contributions before their annuities are subject to federal tax.

The House plan would end the benefit, retroactive to the first of this month.

The Senate plan -- which is what Congress probably will finally approve -- would phase out the recovery period over two years, beginning in January 1988.

Federal employe union leaders will push for a bigger pay raise based on government statistics, which are expected to show that federal pay has fallen as much as 20 percent behind salaries for similar jobs in the private sector.

White-collar civil servants in the Washington area are paid an average of just over $31,000 a year, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

But the administration again is expected to reject the pay information, collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on grounds that it doesn't present a true picture of the salaries earned by most Americans or of the wages and fringe benefits of the 12 million state and local government workers.