Members of the two houses of the US Congress last week (November 25) reached agreement on a $328.1 billion omnibus spending measure that funds 11 departments and numerous agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill, which includes modest, though respectable, increases to both agencies, faces a very uncertain future when the full House and possibly Senate convene briefly next week to consider it.

The fiscal year (FY) 2004 consolidated conference bill (HR 2673) gives NIH $27.98 billion, a 3.7% increase of $1.0 billion over last year's appropriation, and $318.6 million more than the White House had requested. House appropriators noted the real increase is more than 7% after excluding one-time expenses in the FY 2003 budget. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the lead NIH institute for biodefense research, would receive $4.3 billion, a 17% increase over last year....

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