Frederic S. Otis, a retired editor with the Defense and Commerce departments and a former resident of Arlington, died Sunday in a hospital in Hastings, Neb., after a heart attack. He had lived in Hastings since the early 1970s.

Mr. Otis moved to the Washington area in 1952 while serving in the Army. He retired from active duty as a major in the late 1950s and continued to work at the Pentagon as editor of the "Army Reservist."

He joined the Commerce Department in 1962 and was editor of "International Commerce Magazine" for three years. From 1965 until retiring in 1971, he was publications director of the department's international commerce bureau.

Mr. Otis was a native of South Dakota and a graduate of Iowa State University. He was a police reporter with the Chicago Tribune and owned and published newspapers in Illinois and Iowa before joining the Army in World War II. He served in Alaska during the war and later in Austria.

Survivors include his wife, Dorothy, of Hastings; three children by his first marriage, William, of Annandale, and Gilbert, of Wichita Falls, Tex., and Margorie Drahn of Farmersburg, Iowa; a stepson, Dr. Alan Riedesel of Buffalo, N.Y; a stepdaughter, Nancy Wendel of Lakewood, Colo.; 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

His first wife, the former Charlotte Marie Hubacher, died in 1971.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Shriners Hospital kfor Crippled Children, 2025 East River Rd., Minneapolis, Minn., 55414.