National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility
The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) is a planned United States government-run research facility that will replace the 1950s-era Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, which is "nearing the end of its lifecycle and is too small to meet the nation’s research needs."1 The NBAF will be operated under the authority of the United States Department of Homeland Security, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS) as primary research partners.12
The facility will be located in Manhattan, Kansas, and will employ between 250 and 350 people.12 Preliminary clearing work began at the future location of the 570,000-square-foot (53,000 m2) facility in 2010. It was originally scheduled to become fully operational by 2015, but that timeline has been delayed.13
After the Manhattan location was finalized in 2009, the Government Accountability Office questioned the choice of location in a July 2010 draft report, because it is located on the mainland U.S. unlike the current Plum Island facility.4 This led to a further "site-specific" study of the facility's safety, issued by DHS in 2012.5
The NBAF was initially proposed because the current facility on Plum Island was considered inadequate by the Department of Homeland Security, as the facility is too small and does not have Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) capabilities.6
The new facility will research and develop countermeasures to combat high-consequence biological threats involving human, zoonotic (i.e., transmitted from animals to humans), and foreign animal diseases.2 Included among the diseases to be studied at the research lab are: Foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.2 Approximately 10% of the facility will be used for BSL-4 level research.1
The Department of Homeland Security decided to locate the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas, after a multi-year process. Out of 29 original sites considered in 2006, the agency selected six finalists in 2008:
- Kansas State University – Manhattan, Kansas
- Plum Island
- Flora Industrial Park – Madison County, Mississippi
- Texas Research Park – San Antonio, Texas
- Umstead Research Farm – Granville County, North Carolina
- University of Georgia/South Milledge Ave. – Athens, Georgia
Before the selection of the site, several rural advocacy groups, such as the National Grange, spoke out against the idea of locating the facility on the mainland.7 In addition, groups formed in Manhattan; Athens, Georgia; and Butner, North Carolina to oppose the laboratory's proposed location in those cities.89
By memo dated December 4, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security named the Kansas site as the preferred location for the NBAF. On January 16, 2009, the record of decision was published in the Federal Register.6
Plum Island is the only research facility currently studying foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the U.S. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to evaluate the evidence DHS used to support its determinations that FMD work can be done safely on the U.S. mainland, whether an island location provides any additional protection over and above that provided by modern high containment laboratories on the mainland, and the economic consequences of an FMD outbreak on the U.S. mainland.
Because of concerns raised by the GAO in 2010, Congress instructed DHS to complete a "site-specific biosafety and biosecurity risk assessment."48 It also directed the National Academy of Sciences to appoint a committee of the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct an independent evaluation of this site-specific risk analysis to determine its adequacy and validity. Congress would not release construction funds until these were completed and evaluated.
The facility is still under construction. Preliminary clearing and grading of the proposed site began in 2010. A fence was erected around the site at the same time.
On January 2, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security accepted a transfer of land from the State of Kansas for the site of the facility. In March 2013, a contract was awarded for the construction of a central utility plant for the NBAF.3 The official groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the facility was held on May 28, 2013.11
- "National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "Facility Research & Staffing". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Carpenter, Tim (April 10, 2013). Obama Budget Offers $714M for NBAF. The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- Leonnig, Carol D. (2009-07-27). "Infectious diseases study site questioned: Tornado Alley may not be safe, GAO says". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- "DHS Issues Updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment for Proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF)" (Press release). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. March 2, 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- Federal Register: ROD for NBAF (English), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, January 16, 2009, retrieved 2010-07-21
- National Grange Opposes Mainland Research Facility
- "Dangerous Animal Virus on US Mainland?". The Associated Press. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- No NBAF in Kansas
- "Officials press feds for NBAF". Lawrence Journal-World. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
- Milburn, John (May 28, 2013). Kansas officials break ground on NBAF project. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-05-28.