Kan. (AP)—A government-backed committee of the National Research
Council issued a report Friday saying the United States would have
adequate biosecurity protections even if plans for a proposed $1.14
billion lab in Kansas are scaled back.
study was prepared by a subcommittee formed this spring to look at
three options for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility that is to
be built in Manhattan near the Kansas State University campus. The
report was in response to tighter federal revenues and budget controls
that are forcing agencies to rethink spending priorities.
asked the National Research Council to review the threats of foreign
animal disease, the capabilities needed to address such threats and
analyze options for building the lab as proposed or scaling back the
size and scope. A third option included keeping the current research lab
at Plum Island, N.Y.
the committee found that the need for a lab hadn’t changed since the
project was first proposed in 2006, it did find that DHS had two options
for completing the goal of developing the capabilities with a
laboratory designed specifically to respond to a biosecurity threat.
However, the report concluded that both options had drawbacks.
really did not rank any of the options that we were given,” said Terry
McElwain, chairman of the committee. “There is a really more thorough
and comprehensive analysis that would need to be made by decision-makers
before a decision is made, and we didn’t feel we could do that.”
first option would be to continue designing and constructing the new
lab in Kansas, which would give the United States a large-animal lab
with so-called Level 4 security to handle such deadly diseases as foot
and mouth. However, because the costs for the project have escalated,
the committee suggested DHS look for alternative funding sources. It was
noted that certain research programs at a lab in Australia have been
supported through public-private partnerships with the agriculture
The second option would be to scale back the size of the project and disburse research of diseases across the country.
third option, which would leave current research at Plum Island and
rely on foreign labs to conduct research and deter threats, was rejected
by the committee.
Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry
Moran issued a joint statement Friday applauding the committee’s report.
They called on DHS to move forward with acquiring the land in Manhattan
and beginning construction.
NAS fittingly recognizes that the need for a centralized laboratory
focused on research, diagnostics and surveillance is imperative. That
laboratory should be NBAF, and it starts with construction of the
central utility plant. We are pleased this promising review concludes
any outstanding evaluations of NBAF,” they said.
said it was unclear why costs have risen from estimates of $450 million
when the project was first announced. One reason, he said, could be the
changes in the facility’s design to “harden” it to protect against the
accidental release of deadly pathogens from a tornado or other natural
officials had actively promoted northeast Kansas as a potential site
for the lab, seeing it as crucial to efforts to create a strong
biosciences industry and create more than 300 jobs that would pay an
average of more than $75,000 a year. The state is committed to issuing
up to $105 million in bonds to help with the project.
has approved $90 million in construction funds for the project, which
has yet to be released pending recent DHS studies. In May, a House
committee approved $75 million more for the next fiscal year to continue
Source: The Associated Press