Budget Director James C. Miller III sent Congress a conciliatory two-page letter yesterday instead of an annual six-volume budget, saying it was impossible to meet yesterday's legal deadline.

"I do not see any way to prepare a responsible budget proposal for transmittal before mid-February," Miller said, because final appropriations for the current year

were not passed until nearly Christmas.

House Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) "understands why the president's budget is submitted late in view of the lateness of completion of

the budget process," a spokesman said.

"The chairman feels the key to the 1989 budget process is whether we can continue the bipartisan cooperation evident at the end of last year, which again must involve not only the 535 members of the Congress but the president."

The fault for the budget delay belongs to "everybody," according to Carol Cox, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "If you step back away from the process, otherwise perfectly sane people knew in the spring and summer that something would have to be done about the budget, but they couldn't get their act together," she said.

"This is not an analytically difficult problem," Cox said. "It is a politically difficult problem."

She said yesterday's failure to transmit the budget, which was almost inevitable when last year's spending bills were delayed, "cuts six weeks off the beginning of a

process that already includes recesses for the two {political} conventions."

This year's budget is likely to include fewer surprises than in the past because many of its numbers were agreed upon in the deficit reduction summit agreement reached Nov. 20 between Congress and the president.

But congressional observers expect it to include several proposals to sell federal assets.

"I would anticipate privatization being a major theme," Miller told the Washington Times in an interview.

The President's Commission on Privatization, appointed by President Reagan to report by March 1, has sent interim reports to the Office of Management and Budget on housing, loan portfolios and federal aviation. Some of the commission's recommendations may find their way into the budget.

The commission has called on the government to get out of the housing business. For example, it has said that tenants of public housing projects in poor condition should be given vouchers to find alternative housing, and the units sold to the highest bidder for demolition or other use.

Government loans should be sold immediately to the highest bidder, according to the commission, and the incremental privatization of Federal Aviation Administration functions is envisioned.

The commmission is also expected to make recommendations on the privatization of education, military commissaries, mass transit, prisons, the Agency for International Development and health services.