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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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."