The word is that Mr. Reagan is being presented an options paper by Secretary of State

George Shultz and national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane. It is described as giving the president an orderly basis on which to choose what to emphasize in foreign policy in his second term. The effort is commendable. Events have moved on, and the president cannot just say more of the same. He surely learned the first time around that it is not enough simply to declare good intentions in a dozen policy areas. Choices must be made of where to invest presidential time, energy and commitment. Nuclear nonproliferation -- one of the second-term options -- is a characteristic area, and a vital one, where in the absence of a firm presidential interest matters drift . . . toward proliferation.

At the same time, President Reagan needs to do more than select large-bore policy options from a paper. On the central issue of American foreign policy, Soviet-American relations, he needs to fit means to ends: to decide what particular steps to take and, specifically, to decide who among his lieutenants is to be in charge. Because the plain truth is that Mr. Reagan is currently presiding over an administration immobilized by its internal tensions on all questions of consequence having to do with the Soviet-American strategic balance. A weekend story in this newspaper detailed a typical instance where the president, gearing up to move on the matter of limiting nuclear testing, found himself paralyzed and ended up uttering vague words whose specific meaning his aides have yet to define.

There is talk in some parts of the administration of naming a "czar" in the area of arms control, presumably meaning someone with the authority to cut through departmental and bureaucratic conflicts and make things happen. The president says he is contemplating appointment of an arms control "envoy." The secretary of state argues that arms control must be managed "in one place" -- the State Department. All this makes plain that a lot of people, including the president, feel a need for some new arrangement to manage the conflicts on this question in his administration. Its leading figures could agree on a first-term arms buildup, but they are far from agreement on whether and how to convert rearmament into a more stable disposition between the two great powers.

The urgent question, however, is not organizational but substantive. What does Ronald Reagan want from the Russians, and with the Russians, in his second term? When he addresses that fundamental question, and only then, it will be easy enough to draw the organizational charts and fill in the boxes. What is hard is deciding to do it.