The Justice Department said yesterday that it is starting a "massive project" to root out sex discrimination from thousands of federal laws and regulations.

Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days III, who heads the department's civil rights division, announced that the two-year, $620,000 effort will be directed by Stewart B. Oneglia, who has served on a Maryland commission supervising a similar project in that state.

Oneglia will head a task force of 14, including seven lawyers, that will use computers to screen 4,000 sections of the U.S. Code for such words as male, female, sex, son, daughter, support, marriage, and divorce.

She and her staff will also review regulations and policies of about 100 federal agencies to see what sex distinctions they make and whether any constitute unfair discrimination, Days said.

Oneglia said the study of sexual differences in laws could result in recommendations from the task force to "extend whatever treatment is accorded one sex to both sexes if it provides a benefit or to climinate a provision if it is discriminatory."

She said the review could benefit men more than women, but it won't take anything away from women." Oneglia called the effort "a massive project to review all of the federal code and regulations and remove all the unequal treatment of the sexes."

She said the study would cover social security provisions, military regulations, and public assistance programs. She noted that the Supreme Court ruled this year that widowers whose wives had contributed to social security were entitled to survivor benefits - just as widows whose husbands had made contributions are eligible for the benfits.

But there are a number of remaining social security rules that treat the sexes unequally," she said.

Oneglia said the task force would also look into the law bans women from combat duty, rules that give widows of servicemen - but not widowers of servicewomen - post exchange privileges and into rules that make it harder for men to quality for aid to families with dependent children.

The new task force director has been an orphans' court judge in Prince George's County and a partner with her husband. Nelson, in the College Park law firm of Horowitz, Oneglia, Goldstein and Foran.