As surely as night follows day, every Congress experiences the compulsion to "Buy American." Usually it's a nice occasion for some rhetorical exercise, directed as much against European competitors as against Japan; once in a while Congress goes so far as to pass legislation requiring agency A to fulfill portion B of its contracts with American-made goods.

But the Senate, all dressed up for its radical experiment with televised sessions, suddenly found itself with no place to go but abroad. The six cameras recently installed in the Senate chamber are of Japanese manufacture. Their remote-controlled rotating bases (directed from the basement of the Capitol, and called "pan-and-tilt" mountings) are from Britain. And their lenses are from France.

All that equipment has been leased, not bought, for a trial period extending through midsummer. Ray Carroll, director of engineering in the Architect of the Capitol office, says that it was impossible to find comparable American equipment, "at least not of the size and quality we need." A number of systems were tested, but all were foreign.

Required Reading

So great is the demand for records of former White House aide Michael K. Deaver's doings that items of his paperwork have become best sellers at the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Office. The staff there has made extra copies of his filings to eliminate waiting time in the public reading room. Those inch-thick packets of information on what Deaver does for his foreign clients and how much they pay him are available for immediate sale to all comers. The cost as of Friday: $18.90.

Calling All Entities

Eternal vigilance, it seems, is the price we pay for federally subsidized housing. On Feb. 27, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel R. Pierce Jr. sent a memo to all HUD employes titled "Reporting Foreign Contacts and Security Awareness," in furtherance of Presidential National Security Decision Directive 197. Signed by the president last November, the directive called for departments and agencies to implement security awareness programs.

"When we read about hostile intelligence efforts directed against our country," Pierce wrote, "most of us probably believe that this activity is only directed against national defense and intelligence establishments. However, experience has shown that hostile intelligence agencies, particularly from Soviet and Soviet bloc countries, are interested in collecting classified information and other technological and sensitive information from a wide range of sources."

Therefore, "As Federal employes, we all share in a special responsibility to protect classified and certain other sensitive information and to report certain foreign contacts . . . . you should immediately report contacts with individuals of any nationality, either within or outside the scope of your official duties, in which:

*There is an illegal or unauthorized attempt to access classified or other sensitive information.

*You become concerned that you may be a target of exploitation by a foreign entity.

*You have contact with a foreign national from the Soviet Union, other Soviet bloc countries, or certain other foreign nationals from countries hostile to the United States."

National Holiday

Despite Reagan administration vows not to promote former budget director David Stockman's book by taking issue with it, one hears protests from many official quarters. Yesterday Attorney General Edwin Meese III chimed in.

"There appear to be a lot of distortions and inaccuracies, I guess would be the most charitable way to put it," he said at a news conference. "I think it is pretty unprofessional to serve a person for a period of time and then write a book that has a lot of negative characterizations and distorted versions of history.

"I can see why this is 'Bash Dave Stockman Week' in Washington."