Less worried about the appearance of conflict, apparently, is the Defense Department, which has asked Congress to do away with a regulation designed to keep tabs on people who hop back and forth between jobs in the Pentagon and jobs with defense contractors.

The regulation requires employes to fill out a one-page form, describing their current and former positions, before leaving the Pentagon to work for a defense contractor. A similar reporting requirement awaits defense contractors' employes coming in the revolving door.

Pentagon officials told Common Cause magazine that the requirement was costly and burdensome. Pressed for details, assistant secretary Lawrence J. Korb allowed as how he didn't know exactly how costly and burdensome, but probably somewhere in the neighborhood of several million dollars of taxpayer money was involved.

He acknowledged that was just a guess, but said "my figures are as good as anybody else's who's commented on this thing."

Out of that several million dollars presumably come the salary of the temporary clerical worker who spends a month reviewing the forms for potential conflicts of interest, the costs of 20 linear feet of storage space for the forms (equivalent to a bookcase three feet wide and seven feet high, Common Cause notes), and the time the employes spend filling out the form. A Boeing Co. employe figured it takes "a matter of seconds."

Among the Pentagon employes who didn't spend any time filling out the required form, according to the magazine: Defense Undersecretary Richard DeLauer (former board member of TRW Inc.), Navy Undersecretary James Goodrich (former board chairman of Bath Iron Works), and deputy defense undersecretaries T. K. Jones (former products-evaluation manager at Boeing) and Donald Latham (former executive of RCA Government Systems Division).