An Army sergeant was arrested yesterday by federal agents at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and will be charged with trying to pass national security information to the Soviet Union, the FBI announced late yesterday.

Sgt. Daniel Walter Richardson, 42, an instructor in the Tank Turret Division at Aberdeen, was arrested just after noon at the Chesapeake House Holiday Inn by FBI and military agents who conducted a joint investigation. The arrest was announced by FBI Director William S. Sessions and Maj. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, commander of the Army's Intelligence and Security Command.

The FBI refused to describe the information that Richardson is alleged to have tried to pass to the Soviets or to identify his Soviet contact. The bureau also would not release details of the alleged plot or its duration.

FBI officials in Washington said that Richardson faces a court-martial and is subject to being charged with two counts of espionage and two counts of failing to report a contact with a foreign government, as well as theft of government property and unlawful disposition of government property.

The espionage counts carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

FBI sources said last night that the national security information Richardson is alleged to have attempted to give the Soviets may not have been classified. The sources said the espionage laws do not require the information to be specifically classified.

Officials familiar with the investigation said Richardson's alleged plans came to light after electronic surveillance allegedly picked up his efforts to contact a representative of the Soviet Union. He then was contacted by an undercover U.S. government agent who posed as a Soviet, the officials said.

The FBI said Richardson will be confined at Aberdeen and is expected to be taken before a military judge in about seven days to be officially charged.

"It is the mission of the intelligence community to identify and neutralize the threat posed by host intelligence service and their agents in the United States," Sessions said. "This includes unauthorized contacts by American citizens who may desire to sell national defense information which would benefit our adversaries."

The Aberdeen Proving Ground serves as a principal military center for research, development and testing of arms, ammunition, missiles and various types of vehicles. Some chemical weapons are stored there, and some parts of the facility are highly classified.

The Army's Chemical Research and Development Center has its headquarters at Aberdeen and is responsible for research and development in the area of defenses and retaliation against chemical and biological attacks.