President-elect Reagan's methodical transition planning has involved many soundly qualified people and thoughtful exploratory procedures. But it keeps running into a bump of controversy over his senior foreign policy aide, Richard V. Allen. There is concern within the United States foreign policy establishment that Mr. Reagan may appoint Mr. Allen as his presidential national security adviser without fully dispelling the cloud cast by the controversy. Since appointments to this White House post are not subject to Senate confirmation, the public could be left without an official airing or laying to rest of allegations that Mr. Allen tried to use previous government connections for personal gain. Any lingering doubts could hardly help but undercut his effectiveness in an extremely sensitive office.
Long-simmering questions about Mr. Allen's activities came to a boil with a frontpage article in the Wall Street Journal in the week before the election. Reagan campaigners reacted quickly, and Mr. Allen withdrew from his campaign position.
Immediately after the election, however, he was announced as part of the Reagan transition team. And the president-elect assured a news conference that "our people" had looked into the charges against Mr. Allen and found "no conflict of interest" and "absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever."
This finding obviously was sufficient for Mr. Reagan to keep a valued associate at his side during the transition. But, as of this week, Mr. Allen's aides were said to believe he was still the likely choice for national security adviser. And it seems safe to say that Mr. Reagan's generalized exoneration of him would need to be accompanied by some chapter and verse -- and, indeed, some independent confirmation by a disinterested party -- if Mr. Allen should eventually be named to the job.
For example, was the Wall Street Journal right or wrong when it reported that "letters written by Mr. Allen indicate that he leaked secret information about White House deliberations on US export-import policies to a Japanese business associate who had close ties to the prime minister of Japan"? Or when the paper said that "in another set of letters, written to an American lobbyist shortly after Mr. Allen left government service, Mr. Allen demanded a 50 percent cut of a $120,000 contract the lobbyist landed while Mr. Allen was with the government"?
Persons familiar with Mr. Reagan's mode of operation, including heavy reliance on advisers, place special weight on the selection of expert advisers when he takes office. It is important that no one is excluded on the basis of unfounded allegations -- or included with the handicap of allegations not wholly seen to be unfounded.