The chairman of the president's AIDS commission, which has been sharply criticized for its lack of expertise and the controversial views of some of its members, yesterday surprised the panel's detractors by calling for sweeping new programs costing billions of dollars to fight the epidemic.

"There has not been a national strategy . . . a national policy" on AIDS, said retired admiral James D. Watkins, chairman of the advisory panel. "I think the president is waiting for this, so he can take the leadership role."

Watkins' 60-page report called for spending an additional $1.5 billion annually in federal and state funds to provide vastly expanded treatment programs for intravenous drug users, the fastest growing group of AIDS patients. The report, which also advocated increased spending for AIDS research and the development of home-health programs, will be considered by the 13-member panel Monday before being sent to the White House. Watkins said he expects the commission to adopt the interim report with minor changes.

The recommendations and tone of the report were a surprise to critics of the commission, who have charged that the panel, appointed by President Reagan last June, was a political solution to a pressing public health problem and would have no significant impact.

"I'm absolutely delighted and I certainly never expected this," said Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, New York City's commissioner of health. "I've certainly never heard anyone in this administration say yet that one of the keys to controlling AIDS is controlling the epidemic of IV drug abuse."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), an outspoken critics of the government's efforts on AIDS, agreed, calling the report "a first-rate set of recommendations that begin to deal with the AIDS epidemic responsibly and in detail."

When Reagan appointed the panel to advise him on the social, ethical, legal, medical and economic impact of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Joseph and other public health officials said the group lacked expertise in AIDS and included members whose views were contradicted by accepted scientific findings. They said the commission would, at best, duplicate many of the issues covered by a 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

Those suspicions were reinforced after the chairman and vice-chairman resigned in protest last fall, citing infighting, ideological differences on the panel and lack of White House support.

Some critics remain unconvinced. "If the National Academy of Sciences couldn't move this administration, I'm not sure even this commission can," said Jeffrey Levi, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force . . . . They haven't gotten to the tough issues like discrimination and testing and education yet."

Watkins said the commission will consider those issues in its final report, due to be submitted in June.

The report released yesterday focuses on drug treatment programs, AIDS research, the development of new AIDS drugs and the health care system, and is based on testimony by more than 350 witnesses -- AIDS patients, doctors, drug treatment experts, researchers and hospital officials.

In a meeting with reporters, Watkins said, "It's not in our charter to worry about the political impact" of the report, adding that he hoped Reagan would "not only start the ball rolling but pass the baton on" to the next administration.

In blunt, often forceful tones, Watkins said providing drug "treatment on demand" to intravenous drug users -- which he estimated would cost more than $1 billion annually in additional funds over the next decade -- was essential to controlling the spread of AIDS among addicts, their sex partners and children, the fastest-growing group of AIDS sufferers.

"The incessant discussion of clean needles and condoms obfuscates the important issues," he said, referring to the acute shortage of drug treatment programs that results in months-long waits in New York and other major cities.

Watkins also echoed statements by AIDS activists who have questioned whether drug companies were reaping excessive profits from new drugs and praised community groups in New York and San Francisco that are running their own tests of experimental drugs.

He urged that additional funds be allocated to the Food and Drug Administration, recommended that the number of staff members involved in drug trials at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases be increased, and said that tests of experimental AIDS drugs should be more widely available to women, minorities and drug users.

Watkins criticized dentists and others who refuse AIDS patients and advocated a "very aggressive education program for health care workers," especially physicians, "so we don't have questions about {transmission by} bedbugs and mosquitos coming up anymore."