The Obama administration this week asked Congress for a $300 million "final" appropriation to construct a new biodefense laboratory in Kansas.
The money is the last that officials would need to finish building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., the U.S. Homeland Security Department said in its budget request for fiscal 2015. Work began last May on the planned complex, which would assume animal-disease research duties now assigned to the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York.
The NBAF project received $404 million for the current budget cycle, a significant boost from prior years as it moved from its planning phase into construction. However, the amount still fell several hundred million dollars short of President Obama's request for the current fiscal year.
Kansas lawmakers this week issued a joint statement welcoming the administration's funding proposal, and pledging to seek the "final portion of funding for construction of [the biodefense facility] during the appropriations process."
The unfinished site would include the first "state-of-the-art" laboratory space dedicated to studying the most dangerous known pathogens capable of leaping between nonhuman species and people, the Homeland Security Department noted in its "budget-in-brief" document. Such "Biosafety Level 4" facilities are authorized to deal with fatal, air-transmissible disease agents that have no known cure.
The Obama administration separately requested $84.7 million for the Biowatch network of biological-weapon agent sensors, a decrease from the fiscal 2014 enacted level of $85.2 million.
The Biowatch system has cost more than $1 billion to deploy and maintain in more than 30 U.S. cities over the last decade, and a number of lawmakers have questioned a push by Obama officials to stand up a new generation of self-operating sensors expected to cost several times more.