Obama Seeks ‘Final’ Funds to Build Kansas Biodefense Site

Emergency personnel treat a mock victim during a 2012 bioterrorism drill in New York City. The U.S. Homeland Security Department this week asked Congress for $300 million in additional funds to finish building a biodefense facility in Kansas.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
March 6, 2014, 9:29 a.m.

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.

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