Closing down a Cabinet secretary's dining rooms may make for great symbolism but it doesn't always save money. President Clinton, crowing yesterday about Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich's decision to forgo use of the secretary's dining room at the Labor Department, said, "When I took office, the Labor Department had a nice executive dining room for its secretary but not enough money to train unemployed workers . . . I am going to propose a package that has some more money to train unemployed workers, and the secretary of labor is now eating in the dining room with the employees."

Sounds good, but it turns out there is no connection between the Labor dining room and training funds, according to former departmental officials and a congressional budget source. The dining room, available to former secretary Lynn Martin and her senior policymakers, turned a slight profit over the last four years, they say, because whoever used it paid market prices for lunch.

Education: Still Culling the Resumes Education Secretary Richard W. Riley, explaining to an association of private colleges why he and deputy Madeleine Kunin are the only Clinton folks named at the department, said yesterday that 30 to 40 "search managers" have gone through "thousands and thousands" of resumes to meet Clinton's three criteria: "high quality, vision and diversity."

Sources say the diversity, or "look-like-America," requirement is a major factor in why the administration seems unable to "hit the ground running" by filling hundreds of key positions.

It's not that there aren't enough qualified women and minorities, sources said, but ensuring diversity takes time. A diverse picture at each department means every appointment is interrelated, so that if one nominee changes, several others may have to be scrambled to reconfigure the portrait.

One source often called by the administration to rate job-seekers said it seems jobs are tagged as "diversity jobs" -- slotted to be filled by women or minorities. One day he said he was asked to review several male candidates for a job, only to get a call the next day to review a group of women for the same job because it was decided a woman had to fill it.

Interior: The Media Get the Message

Memo to: Ali Webb, acting director of public affairs at the Department of the Interior.

From: The Media

Re: Control of the message

Your concern about too many voices speaking for the department is understandable, given that the many agencies at Interior have their own spokespeople who talk to the press. Your concern at Wednesday's staff meeting about everyone "rowing in the same direction" is also understandable.

Whether it is possible to get control of this group is questionable. Your memo yesterday seeking a list of all public affairs employees was immediately leaked.

USIA: Talking Up Downey, and Others

Over at the U.S. Information Agency . . . Vice President Gore has talked up former representative Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.) for the director's job, although Downey, who was unable to get a senior Health and Human Services job, is said not to be all that enthusiastic.

American University president Joseph Duffey, who had Bill Clinton working for him on a losing Senate campaign in Connecticut in 1970, is a contender. Also, New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz is being talked about as a possible, more neo-conservative, choice if the administration is so inclined. Unclear whether Peretz is interested.

Starr Settles Into Washington Law Office

On to greener pastures. Former solicitor general and federal appeals judge Kenneth W. Starr has joined the Washington office of the Chicago-based law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Starr, who reportedly had been interested in a job paying in the seven-figure range, won't say what he'll be making. He and two former Supreme Court clerks, Chris Landau, who clerked for Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, and Paul Cappuccio, former deputy associate attorney general and clerk to Scalia and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, will, among other things, beef up the firm's high court and appellate practice.

Two More Sign On With Nussbaum

George Washington University law professor Beth Nolan, who worked at the office of legal counsel at Justice, is working on ethics matters at the White House counsel's office and Steven Neuwirth, who had been an associate in counsel Bernard Nussbaum's law firm in New York, has moved down to work for Nussbaum here. Also, Stephen B. Silverman, a New York attorney who was deputy press secretary for Gore during the campaign, is a deputy to Cabinet secretary Christine Varney.

Not Really at the White House

Sources say there is no truth to the rumor that Susan Thomases, who ran scheduling for the Clinton campaign, is working at the White House. The often abrasive Thomases, a good friend of the Clintons, has been seen there recently, according to sources, but she has not changed the telephone number at her law firm to 456-1414 -- the White House number.

Of Course the President Knew

Where am I? Clinton knew where he was when he was talking to Office of Management and Budget employees Wednesday. Callers say his reference to Gore's office space in the new Executive Office Building picked up on OMB Director Leon E. Panetta's joke that President John F. Kennedy wanted to exile Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in the new EOB.

Guess you had to be there.