Although this year's research and development budget may be the biggest ever, it may also be the hardest to decipher. About half of the FY1999 spending bills reside in a 40-pound, 4,000-page document that has sent legislative staffers and departmental budget staff members scrambling to make sense of the hundreds of what some call earmarks and others call pork.

Normally, the federal budget coalesces from 13 separate bills. But this year, election-year political wrangling between President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress led to a deadlock at the conclusion of the fiscal year. To complete the FY1999 budget in time for re-election campaigns, members of Congress lumped $500 billion worth of expenditures into one "omnibus" document. The tactic has met with some criticism--both because the budget uses surpluses to fund questionable "emergency" items and because of the numerous specific projects it identifies. "What surprises me is the extent of the...

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