By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
Earlier this month, a House subcommittee passed its fiscal 2014 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security, providing funding for important facilities that will research animal diseases that could potentially devastate U.S. livestock.
The House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee marked up and passed a bill that provides $38.9 billion to DHS and its programs for fiscal 2014. Within the bill, the subcommittee allotted $404 million to the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), which is a bio-containment facility slated for construction in Manhattan, Kansas, that will study foreign animal, emerging and zoonotic diseases that could threaten U.S. animal agriculture and public health. The facility is expected to replace a similar facility, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), which is nearing the end of its life-cycle.
Unfortunately, the House subcommittee’s budget request of $404 million for NBAF fell well short of the $714 million that President Obama requested as part of his fiscal 2014 budget, and AVMA supported. The bill does, however, surpass the $50 million that Congress appropriated to the NBAF facility in fiscal 2012.
AVMA sent a letter to Congress on April 25 urging lawmakers to pass President Obama’s budget request for NBAF and PIADC. The president’s request, coupled with the state government of Kansas’ commitment of $202 million in bonds, would fully fund construction of NBAF, the letter states. In addition, the president’s budget also included $29.3 million for the life and safety infrastructure at PIADC, which AVMA supports.
NBAF is essential for the United States to address the national challenge of preventing foreign animal disease outbreaks on American soil. When built, NBAF will be the first U.S. laboratory to have a bio-safety level 4 containment, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest level of bio-safety. This would mean that the facility could be used for research on high consequence diseases that impact large animals, in addition to other disease research activities.
Construction on a central utility plant that will support NBAF is currently underway, but construction will not begin on the main laboratory until 2014, pending approval of federal funds. Kansas State officials aim for DHS certification of the lab by 2018, which would allow the facility to begin operations.
NBAF’s projected costs have more than doubled to $1.15 billion since Kansas won the bid for the lab in 2009.
Update as of May 29
The House Appropriations Committee on May 22 approved by a voice vote its amended spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The approved bill included $404 million for NBAF and $29.3 million for PIADC.
While the latter amount is far less than the $714 million that President Obama requested and AVMA supported, the $404 million approved for NBAF is sufficient for the necessary contracts to be signed and construction on the lab to begin in 2014.
On May 28, Kansas and federal officials gathered for a ground breaking ceremony for the first phase of construction for NBAF.
The approved House spending bill provides $38.9 billion for DHS and the departments it oversees, which is about $35 million below the president’s request. For more information, see the DHS fiscal 2014 appropriations bill and the committee’s report for the bill.