Finally — a chunk of federal funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), has made it through Congress. The $1.1 trillion appropriations bill that sailed through Congress this week makes it possible for construction to begin on the animal disease lab in Manhattan, Kansas.
It would be the first federal funding for the controversial project since 2011.
The Senate quickly passed the House bill, sending the FY 2014 budget to President Obama's desk. It includes more than $400 million for the new top security animal disease lab. The Senate is expected to pass the bill. If so, the $400 million, plus the $200 million added by the state of Kansas, will put the project almost halfway toward meeting its $1.15 billion projected cost.
Funding for NBAF in the new amounts to only about half what the White House requested for the project, but the funds would finally allow construction of the lab to begin. Last spring, officials celebrated the groundbreaking for a power plant on the site of the lab. That was the first time dirt had been moved on the 570,000,000- square-foot site since the acreage was cleared three years ago. For months the site lived as a large hole in the ground, and by the end of last year had grown over with grasses and weeds.
The Department of Homeland Security will operate the facility. Critics charge the price tag has escalated as the date of completion has been pushed later and later. The cost has more than doubled since the project was first proposed.
NBAF would be a Bio Security Level 4 lab designed to research and develop responses to the most “high-consequence” biological threats from animal and zoonotic (animal to human) diseases.