Committee holds hearing on Kan. NBADF

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security told a panel from the National Research Council on Friday that an animal research lab proposed for Kansas is necessary despite scarce federal funds.

During a public hearing in Washington, Undersecretary Tara O'Toole said that the threat of emerging and existing animal disease is real and the construction of the Manhattan, Kan.-based National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility needs to move ahead, Associated Press reports.

O'Toole said that the DHS does not have the facilities or money needed to conduct the research on diseases like foot and mouth disease because of decreasing federal funds.

"I want you to understand that this tension will exist," O'Toole said, according to Associated Press. "You can't do research without modern facilities. But the money for modern facilities comes out of the same piggy bank for research. I think this is one of those wicked problems for which there is no complete or satisfying answer."

The National Research Council is reviewing plans for the proposed lab to determine the threat to livestock posed by infectious diseases. The committee will then determine if the lab is needed or if research can be continued at the decades-old Plum Island facility in New York.

Officials in Kansas have committed $105 million in bonding authority to assist with the construction of the NBAF. The design on the lab is 75 percent complete.

"The state of Kansas has invested a lot in this," Stephen Higgs, the research director at Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute, said, according to Associated Press. "We believe it has to be built. We're ready, willing and able to be that springboard for NBAF."