Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger stepped before a crowd of Washington insiders gathered for the early February unveiling of the administration’s fiscal year 2004 research and development budget proposal and noted, with a slight smile, that “some astute observers may have noticed that many of the 2003 appropriations bills have not passed in Congress.” Then came the understatement: “That makes it difficult to make comparisons [with the 2004 proposal].”

At the end of the hour-long briefing by Marburger and Office of Management and Budget Associate Director Marcus Peacock, another OMB analyst noted that the FY 2004 budget had “lapped” the FY 2003 budget. Peacock, who oversees many of the science and technology funding proposals for the administration, observed that four separate federal budgets were in play in Washington. The government was operating on congressional continuing resolutions that essentially have kept the FY 2002 budget in effect,...

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