Attorney General Dick Thornburgh has run into a new roadblock in his efforts to manage an often unwieldy Justice Department: Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.)

Hollings, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles the department's budget, has refused Thornburgh's request to transfer $788,000 in Justice funds to create a new Office of International Affairs, calling it a "waste of scarce resources."

He has also refused to approve funding for new hiring levels in the Office of Legislative Affairs and the Office of Public Affairs, contending that Thornburgh ignored his panel's directive not to increase staffing in those offices last year.

Unless Hollings backs down during a House-Senate conference, 10 congressional lobbyists and two public affairs officers could lose their jobs.

It also raises new questions about the future role of Robert S. Ross, Thornburgh's former executive assistant who last May was reassigned and directed to set up the international affairs office. At the time, the move was seen as a response to criticism of Ross's role as the gatekeeper to Thornburgh's office. Department officials said then Ross would stay on about two to three months and then leave the department to return to private law practice.

But Ross said that Hollings's refusal to approve funding for the international affairs office has derailed his plans to depart and that he will stay as long as it takes to get the unit off the ground.

"I intend to see it through to some sort of conclusion," said Ross. "Then I would expect I would sit down with the attorney general and see what he wants me to do . . . . "

Ross said he still hopes Hollings will change his mind, saying the office is needed to coordinate the Justice Department's rapidly growing operations abroad. Currently, there are 701 department employees stationed in 121 offices overseas, yet "we don't have the capacity of understanding what all the components are involved in," he said. "So when the State Department comes to us and asks is it necessary to support {all those positions}, we can't specifically make the case in each instance."

But Hollings believes there is no reason to spend extra funds for the office when the Justice Department is having trouble finding money to prosecute savings and loan fraud and drug traffickers, a congressional aide said. "He's tired of seeing a lot of duplication," said the Hollings aide. "This was presented to him as a coordination-type thing . . . . Why don't they just pick up the phone and start talking to each other?"

The objections are similar to those Hollings raised in blocking another Justice initiative -- setting up a National Drug Intelligence Center within the department to develop "strategic," long-term intelligence about the drug cartels. But Hollings's objections to the new hiring levels in legislative and public affairs stem from a different concern: the replacement of professional career employes with "political appointees."

Shortly after Thornburgh took over the department, he created a stir by firing 19 career employees in legislative and political affairs, calling it a cost-cutting move. But since then, Hollings aides say, the department has replaced the departed career employees with 12 new political appointees, and Hollings has placed language in the Senate bill refusing authority to continue paying them.