Since the Y2K bug turned out to have little bite, federal agencies are now trying to figure out what to do with their Year 2000 technology staffs. One industry group has offered a solution to its oversight agency: Abolish the job positions.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions contends that the industry's regulator, the National Credit Union Administration, can give up the 34 extra jobs it created for Y2K.

"A reduction in staff levels for the agency is now in order," association President Kenneth L. Robinson said in a letter to NCUA Chairman Norman E. D'Amours.

Federally chartered credit unions pay about 80 percent of the agency's annual $134 million budget, and eliminating the 34 Y2K job slots would shave about $3 million, the association said.

Robinson said the number of federally chartered credit unions dropped by 22 percent from 1990 to 1999 and the number of "problem" credit unions declined by nearly 50 percent. During the same period, he said, the budget for the federal oversight agency more than doubled and the number of full-time staff increased from 913 to 1,049.

Because the agency ended last year with 57 jobs vacant, Robinson doubts that abolishing 34 positions would create too much of a hardship on the agency.

But Robert Loftus, the spokesman for the credit union administration, said he doubted the agency would willingly give up any job positions. Many of the nation's credit unions are expanding their operations and congressional watchdogs have urged the agency to step up its efforts to monitor "cyber-banking" and "cyber-financial services," Loftus said.

"We have credit unions that are much larger, with many more members, and more complex than they used to be," he said.

PRIVATE TO POSTAL: John Nolan, a former New York City postmaster, was appointed as deputy postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service yesterday. He returns to the Postal Service after a decade at Merrill Lynch Production Technologies, a part of the Wall Street brokerage firm, where he was director of operations.

Nolan, 51, agreed to return for the challenge of helping the Postal Service "get ready for significant change," he said. Although the Postal Service has made a profit for the last five years and overall mail volume continues to grow, senior executives fear that first-class mail revenue could start to drop as more Americans use the Internet to send electronic messages.

As deputy, Nolan said, he will aim to make the post office more aware of the needs of private-sector companies and try "to make customers the focal point of our activities."

Nolan left the Postal Service in 1989 for personal reasons, which included a promise to his wife that the family would stay in one place while their children attended high school. After a "good run" at Merrill Lynch, Nolan said, he is ready for "the chance to have a real impact" at Postal Service headquarters.

EXECUTIVE UNEASE: Mark W. Huddleston, a political science professor at the University of Delaware, has studied the government's Senior Executive Service for a number of years. In a new report, he finds the career federal executives "expressed greater unease about the increasingly corrosive atmosphere of American politics."

Some of the executives interviewed by Huddleston traced the political friction back to the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress and the general breakdown in bipartisan consensus on numerous budget and policy issues. Others, as one executive said, simply see a rise in "incivility in the culture generally."

Several executives told Huddleston that they have been targets of personal attacks by members of Congress on the Hill.

Huddleston's "conversations" with 21 executives appear in a recently issued report by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government, chaired by Paul Lawrence and Ian Littman. The report deals with several issues in the executive ranks--from "the nobility of public service" to the reality of inadequate pay.

The Brookings Institution also has elevated its interest in civil service issues. It recently launched its new Center for the Public Service, headed by Paul C. Light, with a panel discussion that included Health and Human Service Secretary Donna E. Shalala.

Light, author of "The New Public Service," expands the traditional definition of public servants to include for-profit contractors and nonprofit groups. He foresees a "multi-sectored public service in which employees switch jobs and sectors with ease."