The process of moving out the Carter appointees salted throughout the government is proceeding apace -- too fast a pace, according to some in the administration; too slow, according to others.

The transition personnel director, Pendleton James, reportedly wants every presidential appointee out as of noon Jan. 20. "We would rather have vacant chairs than holdovers," the Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.

But vacant chairs don't do work, offer any advice or have any time to pick. And that could be a problem for the in coming administration.

"Nobody hits the ground running," says one official in the Carter administration who has been feuding with Reagan transitioners over who in his office should be told to pack their pencils.

He described the transition process as having three stages: The first one lasts from election night to Inauguration Day. The second one takes a Bible and about a minute. The last phase -- getting the new government in operation -- requires keeping on the payroll at least a few career professionals, presidential appointees or not, who are knowledgeable about their agencies and departments, he said.

"The people who want to sandbag the incoming administration are few and far between," he said.

His opinion is shared by some other Carter appointees, but it's by no means universal. Some who are soon to leave their jobs have grumbled that the Carter administration, far from doing too much housecleaning, didn't do enough of it.

Meanwhile, asked to clarify James' comment yesterday, a spokesman for the transition office here said: "Schedule C positions are policy positions, and they serve at the pleasure of the apointer. I'm sure they will know what the correct decision is."