A 44-year-old former employee of the National Security Agency was arrested by the FBI in Annapolis early this morning on charges of conspiracy with the Soviet Union to commit espionage, an FBI spokesman reported.

Ronald W. Pelton, a former District resident with no fixed address who has been working as a boat salesman, was arrested without incident at a hotel in Annapolis, the FBI said.

According to the FBI, Pelton worked as a communications specialist for the NSA from 1965 to 1979.

The agency, in Fort Meade, Md., is a large, closely guarded, high-security organization concerned with codes, code breaking and the gathering of electronic intelligence.

The FBI said this morning that there was no connection between Pelton's arrest and the arrests of three other persons in the Washington area last week on charges connected with transmitting classified documents to foreign governments or with unauthorized possession of such documents.

The investigation of Pelton was conducted by the FBI in conjunction with the NSA.

According to the FBI, a federal complaint is to be filed today before a U.S. magistrate in Baltimore, charging Pelton with conspiracy to violate federal law concerning the gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government.

If convicted he could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, the FBI said.

Further details were not immediately available.