Supporters of a high security bio-defense facility in Manhattan, Kan., got some depressing news today. The White House Budget for 2013 cuts funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from $50 million to $10 million.
The White House document explains it will undertake what it calls a “comprehensive assessment of the project in 2012…..(considering) the cost, safety, and any alternatives to the current plan that would reduce costs and ensure safety within the overall funding constraints established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.”
The DHS website puts a positive spin on the news, noting that the FY 2013 budget provides “$10 million to complement ongoing research at Plum Island Animal Disease Center by accelerating research programs focused on African Swine Fever and Classical Swine Fever at Kansas State University.”
Kan. Congressman Tim Huelskamp says the need for NBAF is not going away. He believes it will eventually become a reality.
"The question is how quickly," Huelskamp said. "This has always been a multi-year project. And the state's been a 100 percent partner in this deal all along and we're going to continue to press forward both at the state and federal level."
In its justification for the cuts, it sounds like the administration took heed of the rising voice of opposition to the proposed facility. Experts have questioned the need for another biosecurity lab, in the wake of the rapid proliferation of labs in the wake of 9/11. Meanwhile, ranchers say building the facility in the heart of the beef country is absurd because billions in ag income could be at risk. And in Washington, anti-NBAF lawmakers have gained traction as the budget constraints have tightened. Click here to
DHS is expected to release its own report on the NBAF later this month. In its last budget debate, Congress mandated DHS to revisit the Site Selection Risk Assessment in light of a searing report from the National Academy of Sciences last year.
For more NBAF coverage, visit KCUR's Tracking NBAF page.