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Gov't to Debate FY'10 Funding to Build National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas

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By Alex Philippidis

The congressional conference committee that hammers out a budget for fiscal 2010 will decide how much money Washington will spend on site work intended to allow for future construction of the $523 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas.

The panel will have to reconcile widely diverging budgets for the coming year's installment of the project that have emerged from the US Senate and US House of Representatives.

The full Senate on Thursday, by an 84-6 vote, passed Senate Bill 1298, the Department of Homeland Security's budget for FY 2010, which begin Oct. 1. That budget sets aside the $36.3 million sought by DHS to pay for construction of the NBAF project on the Manhattan, Kan., campus of Kansas State University, immediately adjacent to the Biosecurity Research Institute.

That institute is a $54 million research/education facility that, like the one planned by NBAF, has BSL-3 and BSL-3 ag-research space and BSL-3 Enhanced space.

But in an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and introduced on his behalf by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), DHS will be blocked from spending money toward construction of the NBAF until at least 90 days after the later of two events take place:

• The agency completes "a site-specific bio-safety and bio-security mitigation assessment to determine the requirements necessary to ensure safe operation" of NBAF in Kansas, and;

• DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, along with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, submit to the House and Senate appropriations committees a report that includes plans to establish an emergency response plan with city, regional, and state officials in the event of an accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease or another hazardous pathogen. The report also must explain the criteria by which the agencies will issue permits to conduct foot-and-mouth disease live virus research.

Even with the amendment, NBAF still fared better in the Senate than in the House. There, by a 389-37 vote, a DHS budget was approved with none of the $36.3 million funding sought by DHS for NBAF "until the Secretary of Homeland Security receives a risk assessment prepared by a person who is not an officer or employee of the Department of Homeland Security of whether foot-and-mouth disease work can be done safely on the United States mainland."

The House Appropriations Committee last month recommended that DHS spend $5 million on such a study before sending the budget bill onto the full House.

"The Committee expects that such third party should have the appropriate expertise to conduct an in-depth analysis of whether FMD work can be done safely on the mainland, should have access to validated plume modeling capabilities, and should have experience with or could contract for experts who have worked with FMD," according to its summary report.

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