National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility could cost $1 billion

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently confirmed that the price tag for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility could exceed $1 billion.

When DHS officials made the announcement at a conference in Washington, D.C., and it was clear that it could become a major sticking point in the project's development, according to

If completed, the NBAF would be a top-security animal disease lab located in Manhattan, Kansas. The cost projections for the center have at times appeared to be fluid, with estimates ranging from $550 million to $850 million. A $1 billion price tag adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the NBAF's construction.

Tara O'Toole, the DHS Undersecretary for Science and Development, delivered the estimate in her opening remarks at a teleconference in which the National Academy of Sciences had asked for a new risk assessment for the center.

O'Toole made it clear that the project remains a priority for DHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is also working on the project. She also said that the Science and Technology Committee has had its budget reduced by 50 percent since fiscal year 2010, and called it "Hobbesian choice" to decide between funding the facility and other critical science projects, reports.

In addition to the funding needed for the facility's construction, the NBAF would also require hundreds of millions of dollars for at least the first two years of its operations.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is convinced of the projects necessity, O'Toole said, but she has asked the National Academy of Sciences to help determine whether the federal government should consider working towards building a smaller, cheaper facility, or simply upgrading an existing facility located at Plum Island, New York.