Former secretary James B. Edwards, who never tired of boasting of the number of positions he had abolished in his two-year effort to dismantle the Energy Department, would be dismayed to learn that his successors now are trying to rebuild the staff.

The department has told Congress that, on second thought, it wants to boost its fiscal 1984 budget request by $21.4 million to fund 386 additional staff positions, since the Reagan administration's dream of merging DOE with another Cabinet department isn't expected to be realized soon.

Half of the new positions would go to the department's management and administration division, with most of the other slots going to the regional offices.

Secretary Donald P. Hodel has made it clear that he does not share Edwards' enthusiasm for working himself out of a job.

GAS BATTLE . . . A study issued earlier this month by the Energy Information Administration, which contradicted administration assertions that natural gas prices would fall with enactment of decontrol, hardly pleased department officials who have been lobbying for the proposal.

While the EIA is part of the department, it has been trying hard under Administrator J. Erich Evered to win a reputation as a reliable source of objective information, an effort the administration has been willing to tolerate as long as it did not get in the way of political objectives.

But the gas study provided a major test of the EIA's independence. First, the EIA was slow in issuing it, leading congressional Democrats--and some EIA staff workers--to express concern that the figures were going to be manipulated to support the administration's arguments.

Then from the other side, Jan W. Mares, assistant secretary for fossil energy and acting director of the department's policy office, charged in a memo that the study was "fundamentally flawed and misleading." His memo leaked out even before the study was released.

STRATEGIC DELAY . . . The biennial National Energy Policy Plan, which was supposed to be ready today apparently will not be out until at least mid-summer. The policy document, which presents the government's energy strategy, is required by the act that created the Energy Department. With work on the document still lagging, the department now is talking a target date of July 29.

APPOINTMENTS, AT LAST . . . At long last, the White House appears on the verge of filling some of the empty offices in the Forrestal Building--and creating some empty offices in the Executive Office Building.

Danny J. Boggs, who has handled energy issues for the White House, is said to be in line to become deputy secretary of energy, a job that has been vacant since W. Kenneth Davis went back to Bechtel.

And William Martin, a member of the National Security Council staff, is expected to be nominated soon to be assistant secretary for international affairs.

There also will be a change at the top at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where Chairman Charles M. Butler III has notified the White House that he wants to retire in October, when his term expires.