Arnold Warren Garrett, 55, a retired chief of personnel physical security at the headquarters of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, died of cancer Sunday at his home in Knoxville, Md.

Mr. Garrett was born in Martinsburg, W.V., and grew up in Brunswick, Md. He served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

He then earned a bachelor's degree at Western Maryland College and a master's degree in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

He moved to the Washington area in 1952 and went to work for the old Civil Service Commission. From 1954 to 1959, he was with the State Department. He joined the space program in 1959 and remained with it until his retirement in 1977 for reasons of health.

At NASA, Mr. Garrett was responsible, among other things, for the physical security of the astronauts. He accompanied several of them on tours in the United States and to other countries.

Mr. Garrett lived in Falls Church and then in Vienna. He moved to Knoxville following his retirement.

Survivors include his wife, the former Betty Jane Baker, of Knoxville, a son, Ronald David Garrett, of West Palm Beach, Fla., a brother, Clyde Robert Garrett of Martinsburg, and his foster father, William E. McDaniel of Brunswick.