The Senate Foreign Relations Committee defied the administration yesterday and released memos showing that Kenneth L. Adelman was involved in administration discussions about major personnel changes in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency shortly after he was named to head it.
Two memos written by Adelman in mid-January suggest that he wanted to avoid controversy over personnel changes until after his confirmation. Adelman wrote at one point that "nothing whatsoever will be done or even hinted" before his confirmation hearings but that afterward, a "package" of changes would be considered. At another point he told an aide to "make no bureaucratic waves whatsoever."
At the confirmation hearings, Adelman then told the committee that he had "not addressed the personnel situation at all." Some Senate critics said the statement was contradicted by the released memos. The new documents thus could further jeopardize his nomination.
Still another document released yesterday could embarrass the chief U.S. strategic arms negotiator, Edward L. Rowny. That was an already-publicized memo that Rowny handed to Adelman on Jan. 14, two days after he was nominated.
It contains sharply worded, broad criticisms of ACDA personnel such as "needlessly top-heavy . . . deadwood near the top" and "ill-managed with many dubious expenditures and wrong personnel." Rowny said the ACDA's secretarial staff was "incompetent, lazy" and "needs a housecleaning--the lack of quality is appalling."
The memo also contains a Rowny list of complaints against ACDA employes, whose names were deleted from the released version. These included: "fire or send back to State Department ," "left-leaning; watch him carefully," and "questionable; nit-picker." For three members of his own five-man negotiating team Rowny wrote, "progress at any cost," and for another, "OTL meaning, out-to-lunch , abrasive; doesn't want to learn."
Rowny had favorable comments for some employes, including "hard worker" and "overdue for promotion."
Sen. Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.), a leader of the anti-Adelman faction on the committee, said the memos "will have a devastating effect" on the nomination. He said Adelman had "misled the committee" on the personnel issue and that if he could not be trusted on that matter, "what can we anticipate on arms control details?"
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a GOP moderate, told reporters yesterday that he had yet to make up his mind on Adelman but that the nomination fight was turning on "questions of integrity and candor" with the panel and that "more of those for him Adelman now have questions."
White House press spokesman Larry Speakes said that President Reagan remained "solidly and firmly behind" Adelman.
"I don't think we'll abandon this fellow until the president is ready to leave office," Speakes said.
Senate approval of the 36-year-old U.S. deputy representative to the United Nations was in trouble even before yesterday's developments.
The Foreign Relations Committee had sent it to the floor with a 9-to-8 recommendation that it be defeated.
The nomination is supposed to come up on the Senate floor sometime after April 5, after the Easter recess.
A preliminary count by opponents before release of the memos yesterday showed the nominee slightly ahead, with a handful of members undecided.
After listening to Secretary of State George P. Shultz in executive session, the committee voted 11 to 6 yesterday to release the documents with the names of individuals removed.
On Tuesday, Committee Chairman Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) had received a letter classified "confidential" from the State Department opposing release of the documents on the grounds that they could harm national security.
Yesterday, Shultz would say only that the department "preferred" the material not be released, according to senators who attended the session.
As it turned out, the State Department gave the committee more material than it had sought.
Initially, the committee asked only for the Rowny memo, the existence of which was first reported in the Hearst newspapers two weeks ago.
On March 14, when the State Department delivered the Rowny memo, it included four other documents.
One was a Jan. 15 "Eyes Only" memo from Adelman to Robin West, a friend of his who had worked in the White House on personnel matters early in the Reagan administration and now is an assistant secretary at the Interior Department.
Adelman had chosen him to investigate the ACDA personnel situation and had passed the Rowny memo on to him.
In the Jan. 15 memo, Adelman told West that "the first appointments in ACDA will be the critical ones," and suggested several potential candidates as well as sources who could be approached for other names.
Adelman also told West to "remember, Ed Rowny said we'll need two kinds of people," citing the areas of analysis and verification.
As a cover sheet to the Rowny memo, Adelman wrote: "Robin--Eyes Only! Ed Rowney's sic very confidential real views on people."
Tsongas said last week that Adelman's note contradicted a statement by Rowny on March 11 that described the memo as a talking paper drafted for him which did not represent his view "then or now."
Also in the material released yesterday was a Jan. 17 memo from Adelman telling Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam about his selection of West and his plans for handling the question of personnel changes.
In it, Adelman referred to "our discussion with you and Secretary Shultz on Thursday evening."
At the executive hearing yesterday, Shultz said that he had discussed the ACDA personnel situation with Adelman several times.
During his confirmation hearing, Adelman was asked if he had discussed changes in staff or organization at ACDA with Shultz. Adelman responded, "I have not discussed any of those with the secretary of state."
He went on to say that they had "spent considerable hours" talking about arms control proposals," but added that "we have not gotten into structural reform or personnel changes or anything like that."
The memo to Dam also says West's mandate "is to investigate and evaluate the ACDA scene, but decide nothing, say nothing one way or the other, and make no bureaucratic waves whatsoever."
After confirmation, Adelman continued, West "will present a package to the secretary, you, me, White House Personnel, National Security Council, etc., to consider."
"We will do this very deliberately and together, as we agreed the other evening," Adelman wrote.
In a March 14 letter to Percy, Adelman wrote that he has made it a "firm policy" not to make personnel decisions before confirmation, that the Rowny memo was one of "scores" of documents he has received since his nomination, that he had asked West to be the "repository" for personnel documents, that he had not requested the Rowny memo, that he had neither studied it nor acted on it (though he "obviously was aware of the thrust") and that he has had only "two short conversations" with Rowny.