University-based researchers have reason for optimism following President Bill Clinton's request in his fiscal year (FY) 2001 budget for a $2.8 billion increase in science funding. As negotiations begin in Congress on the long, bumpy track toward budget approval, the fastest starter out of the gate is the National Science Foundation, which would receive double the largest dollar increase in its half-century of existence. The National Institutes of Health likewise is in line for a substantial funding rise. The question is, how can spending caps be avoided to effect these increases?

In 1997, when Congress decided to balance the federal budget by FY2002, caps were set on discretionary spending, the portion of the federal budget out of which almost all federal R&D is funded. Although the budget went into surplus in FY1998, the caps remain in place. In FY1999, those limits were circumvented by the designation of $21 billion as...

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