One of the most costly consequences of the Reagan administration to date has been the weakening and demoralization of the federal work force. Not least among the causes has been the contemptuous view the president and his associates hold toward the bureaucracy.

Both as a candidate and as president, Ronald Reagan has fed the all too widespread notion that the federal agencies are overstaffed, overpaid and undermotivated. To a certain extent this was also true of Jimmy Carter as a candidate and to a lesser extent as president.

Beyond this, the reductions-in-force ordered by the administration have been conducted in such a manner as to create maximum uncertainty, fear and confusion. Many federal offices have been virtually paralyzed by dismissals, cutbacks and rumors of such.

No one would argue that all federal workers are models of efficiency. Nor can it be seriously doubted that some agencies may be carrying more employees than are necessary. But meat-axe slashes across the board do not address these problems.

The chief employee of the United States is the President. One of his most important responsibilities is to give overall direction and motivation to that vast army of federal employees who rank below him. That responsibility is poorly served if the signals coming from the White House tell government workers that they are little better than leeches sucking the life out of the American taxpayer.

The men and women who so frequently hear the word "bureaucrat" used as an epithet are in fact among the most important workers in the nation--and they are our employees. We have been saved from a generation of babies crippled by Thalidomide because of an alert worker in the Food and Drug Administration. We can only speculate on how many other Americans have been saved from illness or untimely death because of similar actions by this agency. Other federal employees maintain our parks and forests, protect our air and water, safeguard our bank deposits, care for the poor and the aged, protect our legal and civil rights, and still others protect us all against destruction by enemies who wish us ill. We have no public assets that are any more essential to our well- being and our happiness than our fellow citizens who work for the U.S. government