Kansas biodefense facility stays in Obama's budget

The $150 million needed to construct the Manhattan, Kansas, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will remain in the White House’s proposed 2012 budget, which President Barack Obama submitted to Congress this past week.

The facility will be located on the Kansas State University campus, adjacent to the school’s Biosecurity Research Institute and will serve as a place to study deadly animal diseases and how they threaten the public, the Kansas City Star reports.

“We think it’s extraordinarily good news,” Tom Thornton, president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said, according to the Kansas City Star. “The most imminent threat to our nation is a biological attack … This lab, in many respects, is essential.”

Some of the diseases that will be studied at the facility include foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. The facility will be operated by the Department of Homeland Security, partnering with the Department of Agriculture. This lab will replace the current national animal disease research lab in Plum Island, New York.

Last fall, the National Research Council criticized a Homeland Security analysis of the risk involved with building a lab in Kansas, the Kansas City Star reports. The report stated that there was a 70 percent likelihood of an infectious disease outbreak occurring during the lab’s 50 year lifetime. As close to 10 percent of all cattle in the U.S. live within a 200 mile radius of the lab, the report stated that the federal government doesn’t understand that an outbreak of food-and-mouth could cause major damage.

Foot-and-mouth disease kills hogs, cattle and various cloven-hoofed animals.

Supporters of the lab believe that the report overstated the threat.