The State Department reacted strongly yesterday to a published interview with Evan Galbraith, the retiring U.S. ambassdor to France, in which the envoy said "foreign policy is too important to be left up to Foreign Service officers."

In the interview with The New York Times, Galbraith also was quoted as saying: "It's like the line about war being too important to leave up to the generals. Well, the Foreign Service officer is like a military person. To move up, he has to avoid trouble. He learns in time to have a horror of confrontation.

"The result is that the dominant operations are make-work 'cover' operations that are not only useless but mislead people. It's just waves sloshing about without anybody really wanting to do something. There's something about the Foreign Service that takes the guts out of people. The tendency is to avoid confronting an issue."

At his briefing yesterday, department spokesman Bernard Kalb said Secretary of State George P. Shultz "does not agree with the characterization of the Foreign Service attributed to Ambassador Galbraith."

"The secretary," he added, "finds that the Foreign Service implements the president's foreign policy with vigor and loyalty and is carrying out its mission in an outstanding matter. In a world in which the threat of terrorism is mounting, and America is called upon to deal with a difficult, dangerous and debilitating array of problems, it is the Foreign Service officer who often is out there on the front line."

Kalb also said that Galbraith thought the newspaper article "badly expressed" his views on the Foreign Service.