JOHN GILLIGAN, head of the agency that gives country-to-country foreign aid, wanted more money for his agency, a tighter focus on development as distinguished from political and military support, and a reorganization of all the government's aid activities. The Carter administration decided on no extra money (in fact, inflation fighting dictates less), no significant change in the development-politicalmilitary mix and, evidently, no boat-rocking reorganization. Unsurprisingly, Gov. Gilligan is departing the Agency for International Development. His successor is, as Mr. Gilligan was two years ago, new to the job. That he will need a year or two to master it ensures that the pattern will go on.

We would not pretend that this particular war of the Potomac is a grabber. AID becomes politically visible only when legislators kick it around at budget time, and the matter of who runs it and how foreign aid is organized concern the aid community, admittedly an intense bunch, much more than the political community at large. It has to be said, nonetheless, that what has happened to AID, and to aid, is hardly one of the Carter administration's prides.

The president thought he had the opportunity, when he took office, to make both the bureaucracy and the cause centerpieces in his effort to create a new "world order." Certainly the need was there to make development cooperation a stronger element in American foreign policy. Yet he has not found it possible to recognize this need, as he has found it possible to increase defense spending. He has not been willing to make a major investment of political capital. Ask people in the administration, and they recite forlornly the familiar economic constraints and political distractions.

For next year the administration seeks $5.7 billion in economic aid ($1.8 billion of it to be distributed by AID, the rest by the World Bank and the like) and $3 billion in military aid. The numbers, at least on the economic side, are minimal, and will preserve the low standing of the United States among aid donors. Few experts would say that the programs supported by those numbers contribute adequately to the development goals proclaimed in official rhetoric. Nor has the Carter administration come near to fulfilling its hopes and pledges of development cooperation in the half-dozen or so international forums where "North-South" issues are on the table.

In brief, development is shaping up as a major administration disappointment of a sort that no amount of earnest diplomacy, at the United Nations or elsewhere, can dispel.