The White House announced yesterday that it is putting more money, people and rank into the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to fulfill President Reagan's April pledge to "reinvigorate" that battered office.
Critics had accused the administration of allowing the once-influential arms control clearinghouse to become a "basket case" and had suggested this was a sign of indifference toward arms control.
Officials said privately that the new infusions were intended in part to combat that charge, leveled last month in an article in the newsletter of the respected Arms Control Association, a non-governmental group of arms control advocates among whom are a number of former ACDA officials.
"In the last two and a half years, ACDA has become a shambles, largely incapable of performing the tasks assigned to it" by Congress, the article said.
ACDA officials acknowledge that, for a variety of reasons, the agency has been in turmoil for much of this period and that morale and influence had sunk to a very low point.
But they say that the agency now is recovering, that its effectiveness depends ultimately on its support in the White House and that yesterday's actions indicate that its standing there is being restored.
The White House said it will ask Congress to add $2.095 million to the agency's budget for next year, about 10 percent above the $21.4 million previously approved. An extra $864,000 will also be requested for the current year.
The White House will also ask that 25 professional employes be added over a two-year period to a staff whose permanent professional work force had shrunk to 154, the lowest since 1973.
In addition, higher rank will be given to ACDA's four presidentially appointed assistant directors and the two chief negotiators, Edward L. Rowny and Paul H. Nitze, at U.S.-Soviet talks in Geneva on limiting strategic and intermediate-range missiles.
These promotions, officials said, are meant to put the ACDA assistant directors on about the same level as assistant secretaries of state and defense and thus give them equal weight in inter-agency deliberations.
They are also meant as diplomatic signals to the Soviets, in that they will give Rowny and Nitze about the same status as their Soviet counterparts.
Officials said the increases in funds and staff would be used to keep up with what is anticipated to be an expanding number of arms control issues and sessions in the next year or so and to strengthen support for the key missile talks in Geneva and the ability to verify compliance with such agreements.
Aside from the Geneva talks, a new Conference on Disarmament in Europe will begin next year, and work could speed up on East-West troop reduction talks in Vienna, on nuclear test ban treaties and on charges that the Soviet Union has violated bans on chemical warfare.
Whether these changes turn out to be important or symbolic, and whether ACDA ever plays the role in the Reagan administration that it did at times in the Nixon and Carter administrations, will depend largely on how influential the new ACDA director, Kenneth L. Adelman, becomes, officials acknowledged.
Adelman, 37, did not join ACDA under pleasant circumstances. The former deputy ambassador to the United Nations was drafted for the job after Reagan fired his first ACDA director, Eugene V. Rostow, last winter. His confirmation hearings were stormy as members of both parties questioned his knowledge of or commitment to arms control and the president's commitment as well.
Even before this, the ACDA had not seemed to have much support in the Reagan White House, which appeared to want first to carry out its arms buildup, then worry about arms control. As congressional critics pointed out, about 30 percent of the top management positions went unfilled in those first two years, although much of this was due to conservative opposition to Rostow's choices.
Although State and ACDA officials say that Adelman undoubtedly was damaged by the confirmation hearings, even though some of the opposition was not aimed at him personally, these officials say that since Adelman took over there has been more steadiness at the agency and morale has improved.
These officials describe Adelman as bright and energetic. He has generated many new studies and ideas, "some good, some bad," said one senior official.
He seems most likely to be able to restore ACDA's role as a center of study and analysis of arms control issues, said one experienced aide. But whether he will be influential individually within the top councils of government is much harder to predict, he said.
"I think Adelman will be able to help whomever he aligns himself with," said one experienced aide, "but I doubt that he could stand alone" against other senior officials' opinions.