The Office of Management and Budget wants the General Services Administration to take over compiling and publishing the government's most authoritative volume on federal grants -- the Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance. C. Pete Modlin, assistant director of budget review for OMB, said the switch probably will occur sometime this fiscal year, as soon as Congress gives its approval.

But the staff director of the House Administration Committee's Grants Information Service, a computer data base on federal grants, said, "There are members up here who do not want that to happen and will try to stop it." The official said the OMB has had problems meeting publication deadlines because agencies often ignore calls for information despite a federal law and an OMB circular requiring that they comply. The agencies, he said, probably would be more likely to ignore the GSA, since it is a co-equal agency.

The 1,250-page volume includes a description of every federal grant program and the amount of money available. "OMB is a staff agency for the president, not a line agency," Modlin said. "We shouldn't be doing this." OMB has already saved $169,000 this year -- nearly half of last year's costs -- by cutting back on its press run and reducing printing costs. Despite the move to block grants, though, the book isn't any smaller this year.