Jacqueline Jackson knows all about the headaches of federal regulation. For the better part of three years she has been trying to get a job done, only to find herself stymied by new rules at every turn.

Jacqueline Jackson's job is writing federal regulations.

In 1978 her superiors at the Treasury Department assigned Jackson to write regulations to ensure that the 39,000 local governments that receive federal revenue-sharing grants knew how to comply with the federal laws prohibiting discrimination against the handicapped.

A week ago the rules she had worked on for three years were postponed indefinitely.

Like hundreds of other lawyers around the federal government, Jackson, a $39,000-a-year attorney-adviser with the Office of Revenue Sharing (ORS), has been caught in the backwash of the anti-regulatory wave.

For years, the primary tactic of officials bent on streamlining government has been to regulate the regulators. This process has brought a whole new level of regulation to government, creating the same problems for bureaucrats that bureaucrats have long been accused of creating for industry, local government and private citizens.

"[We are], in a sense, establishing a set of rules for the rulemakers," said James C. Miller III, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget. "But bear in mind that that's just part of management."

It's a part of management that Jackson understands all too well. Softly, without a hint of complaint, she pointed out in a recent interview that writing the handicapped discrimination regulations wasn't her idea. The ORS was complying with a law passed by Congress. And her office was not alone: 31 other agencies were told to promulgate rules to clarify a 23-word section of the law.

Jackson was committed to her work. "I had gotten to know as much as anyone about the problems of handicapped discrimination," she said. "You become close to the regs; they were like my children."

Once she had satisfied her immediate bosses, here's what she had to do:

Write the rules in accordance with the government-wide guidelines issued by what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Publish proposed rules in the Federal Register.

Send them to HEW for review.

Wait eight months for HEW approval.

Review President Carter's Executive Order 12044 -- "the regulation regulating regulation," as she calls it -- to see if her office should do an analysis of her handicapped discrimination rules.

Consult the OMB for an opinion on that question.

Submit the draft rules to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for review.

Consider the comments of those who responded to the Federal Register entry.

Revise the draft of the rules.

Publish the proposed rules in the Federal Register again.

Submit the rules to the EEOC again.

Wait a month for approval.

Comply with an OMB directive to write an analysis explaining why no regulatory analysis was necessary under Carter's executive order, and make this analysis part of the preamble to the rules.

Send the rules to the OMB for review of the record-keeping and reporting provisions.

Submit the rules to the Department of Health and Human Services (HEW's successor) for approval again.

Pray that HHS approved them before a pending executive order was issued that would transfer this approval power from HHS to the Justice Department.

Wait four months.

Win approval a week before Justice took over authority to coordinate these rules.

The timing seemed to be good; Jackson had managed to avoid a whole new review process. She was almost done. The Office of Revenue Sharing's final rules on discrimination against the handicapped were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 5, to become effective a month later.

But Jackson's timing wasn't good enough. On Jan. 29, President Reagan issued a 60-day moratorium on all pending rules, including Jackson's. Three weeks later, Executive Order 12291 was issued, requiring further delays and studies of all pending rules.

Last week, the ORS rules were postponed indefinitely.

"We've begun to be regulated more and more," Jackson reflected. "It makes it harer to get things done. But what comes out will be less burdensome on the public, so it's worth it."

"What we're doing is adding a layer of review, there's no question about that," said C. Boyden Gray, counsel to Vice President Bush's Task Force on Regulatory Relief.

"We think there's very strong support for a layer of review . . . where you have a broader picture of where things impact on more than one agency. Life is complicated. . . . You can't just go and have one agency promulgating a rule," Gray said.

"I don't know of a simpler [way to streamline government regulation], but we'll be searching for one," added the OMB's Miller.