The Army announced yesterday it wants to change the eligibility rules for burial at Arlington National Cemetery so that in the future it can keep out veterans it deems undeserving.

The announcement follows the Army's failure last Friday to prevent the interment at Arlington of the ashes of Norman David Mayer, killed Dec. 8 by police after he laid siege to the Washington Monument by pretending to have 1,000 pounds of explosives.

Secretary of the Army John Marsh, claiming that burial at Arlington is an honor, formally objected to Mayer's interment at the prestigious burial ground.

But under existing rules, the Army had no choice but to accede to the wishes of Mayer's family, who insisted that he be interred at Arlington.

As a partially disabled World War II Navy veteran, Mayer, 66, qualified to have his ashes interred in the columbarium or vault at Arlington. Under the cemetery's complicated rules of eligibility, Mayer's body, had it not been cremated, would have been ineligible for burial because of space limitations.

The Army has tried in the past to prevent the burial at Arlington of those it considers undesirable. Court decisions, however, have overruled the Army.