With progress stalled on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), the threat to U.S. national security, as well as the economy, is mounting. Without quick action to resume progress on the Manhattan, Kan.-based facility, the threat will continue to grow.
The Kansas site was selected only after an extensive Department of Homeland Security (DHS) three-year process that included a thorough risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, and security assessment.
The new facility, slated for completion in 2018, will address the urgent needs of the nation’s livestock industry to defend against foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
With U.S. pork and beef exports topping $11 billion in 2011, foreign markets continue to increase in importance to the United States. Without vital advances in foreign animal disease research and prevention measures made possible by the NBAF, these record-level exports remain at risk.
The potential of a U.S. outbreak of a foreign animal disease undermines efforts to open new export markets and approve new free-trade agreements. Yet, the Administration has slowed progress on NBAF while it reassesses earlier findings. In short, it’s politics as usual.
Last week, the National Research Council released a document titled ‘Evaluation of the Updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility,’ further complicating NBAF progress.
The document’s summary states:
“The committee has identified serious concerns about (1) the misapplication of methods used to assess risk, (2) the failure to make clear whether and how the evidence used to support risk assessment assumptions had been thoroughly reviewed and adequately evaluated, (3) the limited breadth of literature cited and the misinterpretation of some of the significant supporting literature, (4) the failure to explain the criteria used to select assumptions when supporting literature is conflicting, (5) the failure to consider important risk pathways, and (6) the inadequate treatment of uncertainty.”
The report was required in order to restart funding already approved for construction. What the report will do to those plans is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, the risk associated with a foreign animal disease outbreak in the U.S. continues to grow.
In an interview with AgriTalk host Mike Adams this week, Dr. Ron Trewyn, vice president of research at Kansas State University, said that “issues raised by the new report will be addressed as we move forward.”
U.S. Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback have called on DHS to release the funds to resume construction immediately. In June, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations appropriated $75 million for NBAF construction. The Senate is expected to debate the legislation this summer.
Even the new report says that the NBAF facility is vital to preserving the health, wealth and security of the nation. However, getting the construction on NBAF restarted will depend on Congress releasing the funding and on what DHS decides to do.
Let’s hope that election-year politics doesn’t continue holding up progress on NBAF. The facility is just too important to the nation’s security as well as safeguarding the future of American agriculture.