As the end nears for the Cabinet selection, interest is shifting to the lesser but still prestigious sub-Cabinet positions -- all those deputy/under/associate/assistant secretaryships that form the front lines of the bureaucracy. A 24-karat resume and a hatful of brilliant management concepts alone won't capture one of those positions; it helps to have some friends who will thump the tub.

So it is with John Thomas Burch Jr., who would like to be secretary of the Army -- a job that reportedly is all but sewn up by former representative John O. Marsh of Virginia. But Burch also would be pleased to serve as one of the secretary's subordinates, and a small army of ex-military men and veterans' organizations would like him to have one of those jobs -- so much so that they have organized a little campaign of letters, phone calls and news conferences to make his candidacy more visible.

What Burch's backers have in mind is something more along the lines of assistant secretary for installations, logistics and financial management, a job they say would capitalize on his considerable military experience.

Burch, a partner in the Washington law firm of Burch, Kerns & Klimek, has never held a job in previous Republican administrations, and most of his Republican Party activities have been at the local level. That's a virtue as far as his supporters are concerned, but it puts him at a bit of a disadvantage in getting his name bandied about at the highest levels of the transition.

That's where the network of contacts comes in, and in the Washington version of Tinker to Evers to Chance, this is how the play went:

The first approach to Burch came from an associate in his law firm, William C. Cramer, and Charles Lipsen, another Washington lawyer. Cramer is a former Florida congressman and former general counsel for the national Republican Party who also served as assistant general counsel for the Reagan campaign, and Lipsen, a Democrat, is a law partner of Jerris Leonard, who served in the Justice Department in the Nixon administration and is serving the Reagan transition now.

Leonard's reaction to Burch's credentials was positive, so Lipsen approached retiring Rep. Bob Wilson, ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee. Wilson, a Californian, also is a man with some Reagan contacts, among them William Van Cleave, a top Reagan defense adviser and director of the transition effort at the Pentagon.

Wilson formally submitted the credentials to Van Cleave. Shortly thereafter, Burch's promoters were notified that his was among five names being considered for the secretary's post.

Mark Berent, a spokesman for the promoters, characterizes the efforts on Burch's behalf as a matter of people with an apolitical interest in quality pushing a talented candidate. Burch "has a constituency," he said. "But we can't vote him into office. If we could we would."