Kansas' congressional delegation reviews biodefense lab progress

An agreement on developing a new federal biodefense lab in Kansas indicates that the facility will be built and will be safe, members of the state's congressional delegation said Oct. 8.

Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, speaking on a conference call from Washington, called the agreement to appropriate $32 million and conduct four more reviews on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility a significant event.

"There are hurdles that could happen along the way, but this is certainly a milestone," Brownback told The Associated Press.

The Republicans said the agreement means the Department of Homeland Security can spend $27 million to continue design and planning work on the facility, which will be built in Manhattan. The remaining $5 million will be released once the security studies are complete.

Final votes are needed by the House and Senate to send the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Department of Homeland Security selected Kansas for the lab in January after a competition among several states. The department and Kansas state and federal officials have repeatedly said that the lab can be safely operated in the state. Costs for the lab and transferring of research there are estimated to reach $915 million, with Kansas providing at least $110 million and land for the lab.

Brownback was one of the negotiators who drafted the agreement. He said the Homeland Security department would be required to study the risks of operating the planned 520,000-square-foot lab. Once complete, the study is to be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.