The Defense Department's second-ranking official said yesterday that Pentagon leaders misled Richard P. Godwin when they told him he would be a czar with far-reaching powers to change the military's scandal-ridden weapons buying system.

"In the Defense Department we do tend to puff our jobs somewhat," Deputy Secretary of Defense William H. Taft IV told the House Armed Services Committee in response to sharp questions on Godwin's resignation.

"Godwin was misled about the nature and duties of his authority before he came," said Taft. "He came with the promise he would be a czar . . . one shouldn't be told that. There aren't any czars in Washington."

Godwin, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, submitted his resignation this week after barely a year on the job, saying he had become too frustrated in his attempts to improve the Pentagon's complex acquisition system.

Taft said told the committee, "In retrospect it should have been given more emphasis in the courtship . . . {that} there would be resistance in the department.

"In the Congress and the press, there was a sense this position would be an extremely powerful one," Taft continued. "That people would bow down and worship him -- that doesn't happen."

Some committee members questioned whether high-ranking Defense Department officials were committed to make the position succeed.

"If it does not work with Godwin, who is {Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's} appointee and was so close to him, who does it work for?" asked Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) "It doesn't look good."

The position was established by Congress as a result of a report issued by the Packard commission, created by the Reagan administration to study acquisition problems in the Pentagon.

Godwin is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Aspin said.