Longwell: NBAF land transfer agreement nothing but public relations

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a land transfer agreement with Kansas elected officials last week, but it may not serve as much progress for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said that the transfer approval meant that construction on the $1.14 billion facility would start unimpeded by further delays. Oliver Longwell, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), said that the land transfer approval was nothing but a public relations effort, North Fork Patch reports.

"They are trying to make it seem like all of Congress is now onboard to approve this controversial facility when that is not true - this is in the context of a debate with the entire federal budget coming up in mid-February," Roberts said, according to North Fork Patch.

The 46-acre site for the delayed facility sits north of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. The site, which was selected in 2008 for an updated version of the longstanding animal disease research facility on Plum Island, New York, has been in limbo because of federal budget cuts.

The project will replace the Plum Island lab if Congress approves funding for the NBAF and if Kansas matches it with $105 million and provides an additional $35 million from research financing. Longwell said the project is absolutely unnecessary given federal expenditures and the deficit, North Fork Patch reports.

"There was no money in the president's budget last year and we don't think there should be this year," Longwell said, according to North Fork Patch. "We are still pushing congress to evaluate other options using existing facilities."

The Department of Homeland Security is currently requesting that the National Research Council conduct a comprehensive assessment of the requirements for a large animal foreign and emerging disease research and diagnostic laboratory facility in the U.S. The report will determine the budget going forward to meet the needs of the nation to defend against foreign animal, zoonotic and emerging diseases.