Using what well-placed sources called "blunt language," retired Gen. Edward L. Rowny, the administration's chief strategic arms control negotiator, indicated in a memo more than a month ago that he would not take orders from Kenneth L. Adelman, the nominee to be director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
Rowny, a retired Army lieutenant general, said that he would report directly to the president and not to Adelman on matters involving the strategic talks, sources said.
The memo also sharply attacked by name many individuals in Rowny's strategic arms reduction, or START, delegation including several of its senior members.
Existence of the memo, which could be potentially damaging to Adelman's already troubled nomination as well as to Rowny, became known last week.
A copy of the five-page memo was delivered to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday afternoon "for study," according to a committee spokesman. It is being treated as a highly classified document, and only senators are permitted to read it, according to staff members.
"The administration is making every effort to squash interest in the memo," a committee member said yesterday.
Immediately after it became known there was such a memo, the White House announced that the document has been drafted primarily by Rowny's aides as a talking paper for a meeting with Adelman.
Late Friday, Rowny issued a statement from London in which he said the "informal talking points prepared for me" in the memo "do not represent my views then or now."
Late Friday, Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam and Powell Moore, assistant secretary of state for congressional affairs, were called to Capitol Hill to appear before a hastily arranged session of the Foreign Relations Committee. At that session Dam reportedly said it was "foolish" of Rowny to have produced such a memo.
According to administration sources, Rowny passed the memo to Adelman in late January or early February. Another copy was forwarded to an unnamed government official but "never reached" that person, one source said.
Instead, word began circulating that there was a "Rowny hit list" of some 18 ACDA employes to be fired once Adelman was confirmed.
Included on the list:
* James Goodby, Rowny's second-in-command, who was described in the memo, sources said, as wanting "progress at any price" in talks with the Soviets.
* Another deputy, Jack Mendelsohn, who was listed as one who has "got to go," sources said. Mendelsohn has since resigned from the team.
* ACDA's public affairs director, Joseph Lehman, brother of Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr., who was described as "a management disaster."
* The agency's head of congressional relations, Thomas Graham, who was criticized for spending time with a staff member of Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.).
This is not the first time Rowny has been critical of fellow negotiators. When he was serving as the representative of the joint chiefs of staff at the SALT II negotiations in Geneva in late 1977, Rowny told The Washington Post that American negotiators were rushing into an agreement, and voiced concern about the ability of Ralph T. Earle, the head of the Carter administration team.
Rowny subsequently resigned from government and openly opposed the SALT II treaty.
When Reagan took office, Rowny campaigned for the job of ACDA director but did not get the post.
Adelman was closely questioned about reports of an ACDA "hit list" by Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) during his second appearance before the committee The nominee said he had no knowledge of any plan to "purge" ACDA employes.
One administration official said the memo raised questions about "Rowny's judgment, competence and management ability." But he added that he did not expect anything to be done about it until after the Senate decides on Adelman's nomination.
The controversial nomination of the 36-year-old deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations is now scheduled to be considered by the full Senate after April 5, after the Easter recess.