The 12-room colonial revival brick house sits atop an Arlington hill overlooking Washington and carries the inelegant name of "Quarters 7."

It was to be one of the perks that Air Force Gen. Michael J. Dugan was to receive as the Air Force chief of staff. But Dugan, who was fired Monday by Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, never got a chance to move into his government housing at Fort Myer. He spent most of his three months living in temporary quarters at Bolling Air Force Base.

Army officials said yesterday that was because the 81-year-old house, which it maintains along with several others for top Pentagon brass at Fort Myer, was undergoing extensive repairs for Dugan's arrival.

A spokesman for the Military District of Washington said yesterday that the total cost of the work -- $196,010 -- was so high that the Army had asked for and received congressional authorization to exceed the $25,000 ceiling imposed on any repairs to "flag officer" housing.

"They're beautiful, venerable old homes, but they are old and they do require a lot of maintenance," said Lt. Col Greg Rixon.

Rixon said most of the work had been planned long before Dugan's selection this summer. The major costs came from the installation of a new heating and air conditioning system in the 7,098-square-foot house at a cost of $164,475.

Rixon said the heating system in the house was more than 30 years old and its replacement was planned more than a year ago. In addition, some other improvements, such as the installation of smoke detectors and plaster and roof repairs, were made after the general's wife was given "a walk through" by the Fort Myer housing staff.

Rixon said the wife of the incoming Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, will also get a chance to recommend improvements to the house, in accord with Air Force practice of delegating this task to spouses. Rixon said he believed it unlikely that she would call for many changes.