Kansas Gov. Brownback says biodefense lab faces fight

State legislators in Kansas said on Tuesday that they were surprised by remarks made by Gov. Sam Brownback that Kansas faces "a continuous fight" to attain federal funding for the new Manhattan biodefense lab.

During a Monday evening meeting, Brownback told 24 lawmakers that he anticipates the legislative battle over the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to continue for another five years. While the state issued $45 million in bonds in December to help finance construction, it is still waiting for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to release funds totaling $40 million for the building, the Associated Press reports.

The department is waiting until an assessment of the lab's risk has been completed.

"This is going to be a continuous fight for a while," Brownback said, according to the Associated Press. "We're going to be fighting for another five years on this thing."

The new lab could begin operations by 2018 and would replace an older facility on Plum Island, N.Y. The congressional delegation of Kansas has given constant vocal support for the project, but the tone of Brownback's comments surprised those at the meeting.

"There must be a little more information out there that it's at risk," Jan Pauls, a state representative, said, according to the Associated Press.

Backers of the lab assert that it will be safe and that the new lab is important to protecting the food supply of the nation. With ongoing budget problems in the federal government, however, a large project such as the NBAF might be a natural target for spending cuts.