So far this year only 100 of the 2,800 government workers who have been offered early retirement have taken it. Government officials wonder why so few people take an option that so many claim to want.

Some of today's Monday Morning Quarterbacks think they have the answer. They say Uncle Sam should lift the early-out ban on workers paid special rates (scientists, engineers and local clerical workers) and drop the early-retirement penalty.

From the other side, a writer from the private sector says the government's early-out policy is overly generous.

Here goes:

"Various reports on the low number of persons taking early-outs miss a very important point. All past early-outs have included a 2 percent per year under age 55 reduction to the retiree's annuity. Since the average age of those taking early-outs is 52 years, why should anyone take a 6 percent reduction in annuity when you can stick it out for another three years and retire on full annuity? The bill by Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is great for defense workers, but why not simply eliminate the 2 percent per year penalty? Then you would see a significant exodus of senior people.

"Early retirements in a time of massive deficits, drastically reduced budgets and bloated bureaucracies make good common sense. However, common sense never found a home in Washington." Robert L. Jones, Suitland

"Many people think that qualifying for early retirement is just a matter of years in service, age and a layoff situation in one's agency. NOT TRUE! When early-outs were offered last year, many special-rate job series (like the 300-series covering secretaries, clerks and clerk-typists) were not allowed to take early-outs.

". . . This discriminates against women and minorities, the people most often in the 300-job series. I hope future early-outs will be . . . across-the-board without exempting any occupational series. Then watch the number of people taking early-outs rise! Many of us 'old workhorses' are tired and ready to turn things over to the next generation. But we need the health benefits that go along with our retirement packages . . . . " Nancy L. Neild, Woodbridge

"I keep hearing government workers complain that the early-outs being offered to them are somehow a burden because they take a 2 percent per year reduction if they retire before age 55. Do they realize what a good thing they have? I work for a company that will fire 17,000 people this year. Our early-out is as follows: Anyone retiring before age 65 (not age 55) gets his lifetime pension reduced 5 percent for each year under age 65. Also, our pensions aren't indexed to inflation. I checked with Social Security. It allows people to collect benefits as early as age 62 -- but hits them with a 20 percent penalty. Government early-outs are very generous." R.W., Frederick