As Congress readied for recess, approaching the end of the 1996 fiscal year on October 1, it hurriedly passed several spending bills for fiscal year 1997. Some, such as the Veterans Administration, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies bills, included provisions for various R&D agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Other agency budgets, such as that of the Department of Health and Human Services, weren't finalized by the October 1 deadline and were lumped into a catch-all bill, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. For many agencies, the congressional move was a welcome change from last year's series of continuing resolutions. NSF received a $3.27 billion budget, a 2 percent hike (or $50 million) over the FY 1996 level. "It's the first time in my memory over the last six years that we've had our budget passed before the fiscal year began," says David...

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