Rising price of NBAF further weighs down possibility of project

With an estimated rise in the price of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility on the Kansas State University campus to $1.14 billion, officials are uncertain if the project will ever be completed.

The original project price of the Manhattan, Kan.-based project was $415 million. The price tag rose due to safety-based design changes. Months have gone by since construction began on the site, but safety questions, funding obstacles and political issues have continued to pile up, the Kansas City Star reports.

Tara O'Toole, an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said at a public hearing that while the threat of emerging and existing animal disease is still present, the higher price tag is a major obstacle as federal funding shrinks.

"You can't do research without modern facilities, but the money for modern facilities comes out of the same piggy bank for research," O'Toole said, according to the Kansas City Star. "I think this is one of those wicked problems for which there is no complete or satisfying answer."

The White House allocated $40 million for the facility in 2011, but the federal government froze the $50 million appropriated for the facility in 2012 and eliminated funds in the 2013 budget. The state of Kansas promised more than $200 million in support and direct payments for the lab and has already spent close to a third of that on the site. The state also invested $58 million into Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute to support NBAF-related research.

"The state of Kansas has invested a lot in this," Stephen Higgs, the institute's research director, said, according to the Kansas City Star. "We believe it has to be built. We're ready, willing and able to be that springboard for NBAF."