Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:

Programs: To what extent should the federal government provide benefits for the unemployed and for those in the Medicaid program? What programs, if any, should the federal government cut or expand?

Defense: How much should the government spend on national defense, and which military programs do you believe are vital to that defense? Do you support a freeze on the production of nuclear areas?

Social Security: What changes do you favor in the funding and eligibility requirements for Social Security?

Michael D. Barnes (D), incumbent, 39, of 9814 Summit Ave., Kensington, was first elected to Congress in 1978. He serves on committees and task forces on foreign affairs, Metro funding, federal employment and drunk driving. A Marine Corps veteran, he holds a law degree and has practiced with Covington & Burling in Washington.

Programs: We must provide a fair and workable social safety net for persons in need. In a recession with massive unemployment, that includes adequate unemployment benefits to sustain workers and their families, and continued Medicaid funding. I have voted for responsible programs to provide job training and education for the unemployed, and access to health and social service program for those in need. I voted to cut wasteful expenditures like the Clinch River breeder reactor; the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway; sugar, peanut, tobacco and dairy price supports; federal water subsidies to agribusiness; and unnecessary or obsolete weapons systems like the MX missile and B-1 bomber. I support expanding programs for revitalizing basic industries (but no "bailouts"); education and job training; helping the handicapped reach full potential; scientific research and development for health and high technology; improving the quality of U.S. naval forces; and funding the Caribbean Basin Initiative to stabilize that region.

Defense: I support a 4 to 5 percent real increase per year above inflation, emphasizing strengthened conventional forces, especially naval; a strong nuclear deterrent without further spiraling of the arms race; a strengthened volunteer army; incentives to retain skilled personnel; further development of the Stealth bomber; using the Marine Corps, in which I served, as a rapid deployment force; and consideration of some form of national service instead of a draft. The administration's indiscriminate spending increases damage to defense priorities and to the economy generally. I support a mutual, verifiable freeze now on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons by both major superpowers. I supported and cosponsored the nuclear freeze proposal, helped get it through the Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke for it and voted for it on the floor. It is a continuing priority. Passage will send a message to this administration and the Kremlin that all humanity wants to end the insane arms race.

Social Security: The Presidential Commission on Social Security will report to Congress in December of this year. I favor prompt consideration of its recommendations just as soon as the newly elected 98th Congress organizes next winter. Responsible action is needed rapidly to restore faith in the integrity of Social Security. The federal government has a compact with the American people to provide Social Security benefits and maintain a viable Social Security system.We must keep those commitments. The immediate threatened shortfall in Social Security payments can be met through general revenues or interfund transfers. But, for the long term, if Congress decides to consider reductions for future beneficiaries, they must be phased in over a period of decades to avoid disrupting people's lives and plans. I strongly opposed the administration's 1981 plan for immediate radical Social Security cuts, elimination of the minimum benefit and changes in the retirement age.

Elizabeth W. Spencer (R), 56, of 734 Tiffany Ct., Gaithersburg, was a member of the Montgomery County Board of Education from 1974 to this year. A former teacher, she also served on the Ottawa, Kan., school board. She has been a member of the county Human Relations Commission. She owns and operates a farm and is active in many civic groups.

Programs: The federal government should extend benefits to the structurally unemployed, especially those hurt by foreign competition. Job training programs and those aimed at increased employment must be expanded. Jobs programs are highly justifiable since their potential payback is obvious. Food stamp programs, within tightened regulations, must also be continued -- in this country so rich with food, it is inexcusable that any people should go hungry. It is essential that the unemployed and those needy who depend on Medicaid not summarily lose these benefits. Any withdrawal of these services by the federal government must take place in such slow and orderly fashion as to allow state and local governments time to create the mechanisms to replace these benefits without detriment to the recipients. State governments must manage the Medicaid program better. To accomplish this, federal and state governments must revise existing regulations and legislation to effect efficient management of the program at all levels.

Defense: The government should spend that amount necessary to provide for a viable deterrent force, able to respond in kind to any external threat. Programs vital to the defense of the United States include those aimed at protection of the sea lines of communication to Europe, Japan and the Indian Ocean; a strong conventional force, especially in Europe; and a credible strategic force. Appropriations for defense must not exceed the ability to develop and spend wisely. While competition between the armed forces is helpful, unnecessary duplication in expenditures must be diminished. The only circumstances under which I would support a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons would be the result of negotiations, and be bilateral and verifiable.

Social Security: Social Security is our most important assistance program. It must fulfill its obligations to present retirees. From its inception, the program was to be self-sustaining and this goal must be maintained. People may have to retire later in life as life expectancy increases. Retirees may have to take smaller cost-of-living increases, as it is unfair for retirees to receive larger "raises" than workers currently paying into the program. Cost-of-living adjustments must be tempered; the current indexing by Consumer Price Index is not based on criteria appropriate to the lifestyle needs of that sector of the population. The only options for increased funding are additional payroll taxes and the extension of coverage, or some combination of these.