Harold E. Burdette Sr., 61, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army and then a security officer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for many years, died at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center Saturday of a pulmonary embolism.

Col. Burdette, a native of Pontiac, Mich., joined the Army as an enlisted man in 1941. He later was commissioned in the counterintelligence corps and served in Athens, Greece, and Japan, as well as at various posts in the United States. He was stationed in Washington in 1956 and remained here following his retirement in 1961.

He joined NASA as a security officer in the same year and remained with the agency until his second retirement in 1976. One of his duties was to provide security for astronauts making manned space flights.

Col. Burdette was a member of the Masonic Grand Lodge in Athens, Greece, and had been active in Masonic and Kiwanis activities at the Roosmoor Leisure World in Silver Spring, where he lived at the time of his death. He also was a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Kensington and of the council of the Inter-Faith Chapel at Rossmoor.

Survivors include his wife, the former Marie Morris, of the home; two sons, Harold E. Jr., of Silver Spring, and the Rev. Robert O., of Kensington; a daughter, Sara Duley, of Buckeystown, Md.; a sister, Mrs. Howell Powell, of Pontiac, Mich., and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Inter-Faith Chapel, Rossmoor Leisure World, Silver Spring.