Last year the General Services Administration thought it had come up with a way to save $140,000 a year by contracting out the work of 700 guards who sit at the doors of federal buildings across the country. Under another OMB circular, known as A-76, agencies are supposed to contract out jobs that don't need to be performed by federal employes. GSA's idea was to keep Federal Protective Service officers on duty only where they were essential for "national security" reasons, such as at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Attorney General William French Smith complained, however, that the switch was unacceptable. And over the months, virtually every agency served by some of the 3,200 federal officers chimed in in agreement.

After the chorus of dissent, Charles J. Cobb, assistant commissioner of GSA's office of federal protective service management, said GSA restudied the issue and now plans to leave the federal officers at the Justice, Defense and State departments and at the United Nations. Smith in the meantime has asked the U.S. Marshal Service to take over the "rent-a-cop" contracts for the federal courts. Now, only 318 federal positions will be eliminated.