President Carter, in a letter to Senate leaders, said he opposes a House-passed move to take the Peace Corps from ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.

Instead, Carter said he favors giving the Peace Corps autonomy while allowing it to remain under the ACTION roof.

"The administration has completed its review of the question of Peace Corps organization," the president said in his letter, sent to Capitol Hill Tuesday. "My conclusion is that the Peace Corps should remain with ACTION and be constituted there as an autonomous operating entity," Carter said.

The president's letter came two weeks after the House, responding to heavy criticism of ACTION and its director, Sam Brown, voted to move the Peace Corps to a proposed new International Development Cooperation Agancy (IDCA).

Carter said he "reviewed carefully the option of placing the Peace Corps within IDCA," but decided against it because such a move could take away from the corps the "insulation intended to protect its autonomy."

"I am reluctant to reverse the precedent established by President [John F.] Kennedy that the Peace Corps' overseas functions should not be directly linked to other U.S. overseas operations," Carter said.

"Autonomy within IDCA might work at the Washington level, but lead to pressure for common administrative and support arrangements overseas," he said.

Keeping the Peace Corps within the ACTION framework would also help the government "maintain co-location of programs that draw volunteers from like-minded people of all ages in American society, and address similar types of problems at home and abroad," Carter said.

He said "Peace Corps autonomy can be better and more rapidly accomplished within ACTION" through using an executive order to shift basic responsibility for the corps' operation from the ACTION director to the corps director.

The Peace Corps, founded in 1961, operated independently until ACTION came into being 10 years later. Since then, the corps had operated under the authority of the ACTION chief.

Carter said the administration is also proposing changes in ACTION budget procedures in order to give the corps director 'control of and responsibility for, the money which Congress appropriates for the Peace Corps."

Congress might also consider "possible simple amendments to the Peace Corps and Domestic Volunteer Service Acts . . . to restore to the Peace Corps and to the president the organizational flexibility within the executive branch which the Congress originally envisaged for the Peace Corps," Carter said.

The President said he has asked Peace Corps director-designate Richard Celeste to push for the changes outlined in the executive letter, which was sent to the leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and Governmental Affairs committees.

The committees are expected to take up consideration of the Peace Corps reorganization issue next week.