Within the Office of Management and Budget, where budget has long been king while management has been relegated to a minor earldom, a recent staff shuffle suggests that the "M" in OMB may be gaining more access to the throne.

Several budget examiners have been ordered to report to OMB's associate director for management in an effort to beef up the separate and unequal management side of the agency.

This movement of a handful of individuals from one floor to another in the New Executive Office Building would ordinarily go unnoticed among the comings and goings of the nation's 2.1 million civilian federal workers.

But OMB is no ordinary federal agency. It controls other agencies' budget requests to Congress, it acts on behalf of the president, and its personnel movements are followed in Washington with intense interest.

The budget examiners for the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration were placed under the management side of OMB several weeks ago. They are to continue their traditional job of scrutinizing budgets, but will report to supervisors whose duties focus on management issues.

Gerald Riso, newly appointed associate director for management, said the idea is to centralize the "government of the government."

Budget examiners, desperate for savings to comply with Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction targets, are sometimes skeptical of management "innovations" that cost money. By subordinating budget experts to the other side of OMB, management concerns will not be lost in an effort to save money, Riso said.

For example, Riso said, in cases where several federal agencies share an office building outside Washington, the government has been urging them to centralize support operations, such as mailroom and payroll offices. A small staff within GSA has been designated to help agencies work out the details.

Riso said that by placing GSA's budget under management supervision, he can assure that GSA's special staff helping with the consolidation doesn't become expendable. Such a cut would help the GSA budget -- but at the expense of dozens of other agencies where savings might occur if consolidation efforts were successful.

Officials at the personnel agency and at GSA, the government's landlord, housekeeper and purchasing arm, said they had either noticed no change or regarded the switch as an improvement in their relations with OMB.

OMB Watch, the budget agency watchdog group, said it regarded the switch as a minor bureaucratic move, leaving the same policies and personnel in place.

But attempts to change the role of management in government have a long history.

Hearings were held last year on a proposal by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) to split OMB and set up a separate agency to give greater impetus to management efforts.

The Grace Commission, formally known as the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, recommended creation of an Office of Federal Management within the Executive Office of the President. It would subsume the budget functions of OMB, and GSA's 21,000 employes and OPM's 6,000 would report to the new office.

Indeed, efforts to elevate the status of management played a role in the establishment of OMB, which was known as the Bureau of the Budget until 1970, when it was reorganized. A proposed name was The Office of Management.

When that proposal circulated on Capitol Hill, a committee chairman sent a memo to the White House. "I don't care what you call it, so long as the word budget is in there," he wrote. And so Budget was added to the title.

Inadvertently, the old BOB had, for a moment, become TOMB, The Office of Management and Budget.