The Republican National Committee, signaling what is likely to become a major campaign issue in 1980, called yesterday for a massive overhaul of American intelligence operations to end what it called "confusion and chaos" in U.S. foreign policy.

In issuing a policy paper, GOP National Chairman William Brock said "pressures and misguided initiatives" by the Democratic-controlled Congress during the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations have drastically reduced U.S. intelligence-gathering capabilities.

"The cumulative impact of these past few years has been harmful miscalculations, massive intelligence failures and setbacks in our foreign policy," Brock said.

He called a proposed revision of the 1947 charter of the CIA, offered last year in the Senate, "totally inadequate and unacceptable." The proposals died last year, and the Carter administration has yet to come forward with a revised version.

Brock and the GOP advisory committee report proposed encouraging competition among intelligence-gathering agencies, establishing a new Foreign Operations Service for clandestine activities abroad and reducing the amount of intelligence information made public under Freedom of Information and Privacy acts.

The Republican paper also recommended that the president name a special adviser, outside the ranks of the CIA, to oversee intelligence matters in the White House and that a new Joint Intelligence Committee be formed in Congress.

The policy paper said "debilitating political attacks" on the CIA and the FBI have hurt morale, caused widespread resignations and fostered uncertainty about the "reliability of the intelligence community's products."

"The intelligence community has been losing its ability to supply the president, senior U.S. officials and Congress with the best possible information and with timely warnings of threats to our security," the policy paper said.

It cited as intelligence failures the "virtual humiliation of the United States in the eyes of the world" during the Iranian revolution, the inability to predict the revolution in Afghanistan and the failure to deal with what it called Cuban-sponsored revolutionary activities in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

As evidence of the CIA's demoralized state, Brock cited a recruiting ad the agency placed in The Washington Post Sunday. The ad said, "We're looking for you special men and women who still have a spirit of adventure. There aren't many of you. One in a thousand maybe."

A CIA spokesman said the ad is one of many the agency has placed in major newspapers during the last 16 months to recruit a wide range of employes, including clerical help. He said the CIA has advertised for job applicants for decades.

Administration officials have been deadlocked for months on the content of a new charter spelling out the limits of power on intelligence agencies. An administration-certified charter was to have been sent to Capitol Hill for introduction last January, then February, then no later than early June. But one deadline after another passed until now it is doubtful that a charter will be introduced in time for serious consideration this year.

Some critics have charged that the partial drafts that have leaked out are not a code to curb misdeeds of intelligence agencies, but rather are a license for wide-ranging secret activities at home and abroad.

The Republican paper says the Carter draft charters do not provide enough license.

The GOP paper advocates, for example, an increase in U.S., snooping at home and abroad. If also urges that the CIA nullify a directive prohibiting the use of reporters, clergymen and educators for spying acitivites.

The policy paper, the product of a year's discussion by the advisory group, also sharply ciriticizes freedom of information laws, charging they are so loosely written that foreign intelligence services can use them to get sensitive data.

Among the study's other recommendations:

That oversight responsibilities now shared by eight congressional committees be merged into one Joint Intelligence Committee.

That all U.S. government agencies be required to provide agents of a new Foreign Operations Service with cover identities, and that U.S. corporations be given legal immunity for providing such cover.

That the Defence Intelligence Agency be upgraded as a "new source of alternative analysis."

The study's central conclusions run directly counter to what Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), cochairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, told the Senate last week. In a floor speech, he said U.S. intelligence agencies are operating "probably better than ever before" despite setbacks in recent years. CAPTION: Picture, WILLIAM BROCK...urges intelligence overhaul