Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. has nearly completed his appointments of top State Department officials. Career foreign Service officers are cheering.
Some leading conservatives in the US Senate are booing.
Despite much tough talk directed at Moscow by both the secretary and President Reagan, Mr. Haig's State Department appointments indicate that along with change there will be much continuity in policy toward the Soviet Union and other nations.
Haig's list of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of state consists for the most part of professional, nonideological foreign affairs experts. Many of them were associated with previous administration, both Democratic and Republican. As a result, Haig seems to have been overcoming the fear among career professionals that the Reagan administration would initiate a purge, or "witch hunt," at the State Department.
Haig spoke on the subject of change in US foreign policy in an interview published in the Washington Star Feb. 1. He was asked about the impression of some observers that the Reagan administration will not attempt any major innovations in foreign policy but will focus instead on attempting to restore perceptions of American credibility and dependability.
"This is an oversimplification," said Haig. "The problem of consistency and the problem or reliability and the problem of balance will demand in some instances very innovative steps."
Haig criticized the Carter administration's human rights policy.
But the new secretary of state also said: "We're not seeking change for change's sake; yesterday's perceptions don't have to be molded to the conceptions that this administration may or may not have."
Here are some of the key appointments that HAig has made:
* Undersecretary for political affairs: Walter Stoessel, currently ambassador to West Germany and former ambassador to the Soviet Union.
* Undersecretary for economic affairs: Myer Rashish, trade consultant, former member of the Kennedy White House and President Carter's Trade Advisory Commission.
* Undersecretary for security assistance, science, and technology: former Sen. James Buckley (R) of New York.
* Director for policy planning: Paul Wolfowitz, deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Carter administration.
* Director for politico-military affairs: Richard Burt, former correspondent for the New York Times, whose deputy is reported to be coming from the National Security Council staff of the Carter administration.
* Assistant secretary for African affairs: Chester Crocker, Georgetown University scholar and former member of the National Security Council staff under President Nixon.
* Assistant secretary for European affairs: Lawrence Eagleburger, former close associate of Henry Kissinger and current ambassador to Yugoslavia.
* Assistant secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs: Nicholas Veliotes, the Carter administration's ambassador to Jordan.
* Assistant secretary for East Asian affairs: John Holdridge, former representative in Peking and ambassador to Singapore, most recently on leave from the State Department for analytical work with the Central Intelligence Agency.
* Assistant secretary for economic and business affairs: Robert Hormats, deputy US trade representative in the Carter administration.
* Assistant secretary for international organizations: Elliott Abrams, Washington lawyer and former administrative assistant to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York.
Outspoken criticism of a number of these appointments has come from some leading Republican conservatives in the US Senate. The most critical of all the senators, apparently, has been Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina. As Senator Helms and some of the others see it, the Reagan administration had a mandate for change from the voters, but Haig, through his appointments, has merely been playing "musical chairs" among well- established foreign policy professionals. Far too many of Haig's appointees, in Helms's view, have had associations with the Carter administration or with the Democratic Party.
Secretary Haig has yet to make known his preferences for the many ambassadorial appointments now subject to change. These choices may provide further clues as to the foreign policy thinking and style of the Reagan administration.
One critical region where ambassadorial appointments will be closely watched is Central America. Some members of the Reagan State Department transition team recommended that Haig oust the current ambassador to Nicaragua and El Salvador, Lawrence Pezzullo and Robert White, respectively. But Haig apparently wants to keep Mr. Pezzullo on for the immediate future. There are also indications that Haig wants to keep his options open regarding Nicaragua.