The federal government is trying to recover payment from a Foreign Service officer who, during a home leave from service overseas, took a 15-day Mississippi River cruise that cost taxpayers $17,371.

In a lawsuit, the government asked the U.S. District Court here to overturn a July 23 ruling by the Foreign Service Grievance Board, which supported U.S. Information Agency employe Christopher Paddack when he challenged attempts to recover the money.

The government called the board's ruling "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise not in accordance with law, and is unsupported by substantial evidence."

The suit said the board misapplied Foreign Service travel regulations, improperly disregarded evidence that the Mississippi River was not a "usually traveled route" from New Orleans to St. Louis in July 1982 and that the riverboat utilized by Paddack and his family was advertised and used by the public "as a form of luxurious waterborne vacation."

Under government rules, Paddack was entitled to be reimbursed for the home-leave trip to Burlington, Iowa, from his post at the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, en route to his next station, Washington, D.C. The government said Paddack's trip cost $12,760 more than other means of travel.

The Comptroller General ruled on Feb. 14, 1984, that Paddack had violated the Foreign Service travel regulations and owed the government that amount, minus any reimbursable expenses. When the USIA attempted to collect $11,178, Paddack filed a complaint with the Foreign Service Grievance Board