Meanwhile, Hodel made a personnel change of his own that has brightened some faces in the beleaguered department: he removed the security guards from outside his office and the neighboring office of Deputy Secretary W. Kenneth Davis.

The security officers--two unarmed women in uniform blazers who sat at desks in a reception area shared by Hodel and his deputy--weren't exactly an oppressive presence at DOE, and a department spokesman said the decision to move them elsewhere was no big deal.

"It's just more businesslike," the spokesman said.

But some employes, eager for any sign of good cheer after two years of uncertainty in a department that the administration wants to abolish, interpreted Hodel's action as signaling a new era of openness. "It's just more friendly looking," said one department veteran.

The guards were stationed outside the offices in July, 1979, at the recommendation of the department's security office. The recommendation followed an "incident of unauthorized entry" and was endorsed by then-energy secretary James R. Schlesinger, according to a DOE spokesman. Schlesinger's successors, Charles W. Duncan Jr. under President Carter and James B. Edwards under President Reagan, didn't question the presence of the guards, who did double duty as receptionists. But Hodel apparently decided that security at the building's entrances was quite enough.

The guards, who are employed by a private contractor, are now at work elsewhere in the building.