WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush today thanked acting Defense Secretary William H. Taft IV for overseeing the daily operations of the Pentagon during former Sen. John Tower's confirmation battle.

White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that Taft was present at a meeting at which Bush was given an updated report on the progress of separate reviews of Defense Department management and strategic policy.

Fitzwater said the president held the meeting because, among other things, he wanted to ''emphasize his overall confidence with the job that Will Taft has been doing on an interim basis.''

Taft is a holdover from the Reagan administration, where he was deputy defense secretary.