The President's budget, which was made public yesterday, pegs $150 million for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. That's the Level 4 laboratory designed to test highly contagious pathogens and foreign animal diseases operated by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS awarded the $650 million project to K-State a couple of years ago.
Officials told reporters in a teleconference yesterday they were happy with the budget proposal.
Kansas Bioscience Authority President Tom Thornton and K-State Vice President for Research Ron Trewyn said grading had begun on the site. They acknowledged, however, the funding wasn't a given in light of the anti-spending climate in Washington.
Also, a report last year from the National Academy of Sciences raised questions about safety at the facility. The report concluded there was a 70 percent chance the highly contagious Foot and Mouth virus could escape.
Dr. Trewyan says assessing risk is an ongoing process.
"Part of the risk assessment is you're always reviewing and analyzing new information, technology that comes out, and you try to add either the infrastructure, S.O.P's, or whatever," he said.
Treywan and the KBA's Tom Thornton acknowledged the budget process will be rigorous this year given the commitment to bring down spending, but they believe Washington sees the NBAF facility as an essential element in the nation's homeland security.