The Garden City Telegram
2/28/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

NBAF plans

Congress needs to move on funding for facility.

Reports that the federal Department of Homeland Security had awarded a $40 million contract to build a utilities plant for a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Manhattan was good news for Kansas.

It would have been a great news day had Congress and President Barack Obama also announced full funding for construction of the facility — now estimated to cost at least $1 billion — had been appropriated.

That step should be taken as soon as possible but, for now, funding for the utilities plant represents a significant step forward in the process. ...

Despite all the assurances from Washington, D.C., that Kansas would be NBAF's home, the speed, or lack thereof, of progress on the project could have left some Kansans thinking federal officials were having second thoughts.

As soon as the selection process was completed and it was announced NBAF would go to Kansas, objections and questions were raised by officials from states that had been rejected. After further rounds of review and additional study of the Manhattan site and plans for the lab, Kansas still had the nod.

That funding was released at a trickle, however, was enough to make some Kansans wonder if the Department of Homeland Security really was going to dance with the girl it said it was taking to the ball.

Reports indicated Homeland Security had invested $125 million in the project before this year, but that is pocket change to the federal government, especially when it's talking about a $1 billion project. ...

NBAF will replace a laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y., which was built in the 1950s and is no longer adequate for modern research on animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Diseases to be researched at NBAF include foot-and-mouth disease, strains of swine fever and encephalitis, and bovine pleuropneuomonia. Scientists will work to develop vaccines and treatments for those and other diseases.

That is important research that warrants the best laboratory that can be provided. Now that bids have been awarded on the NBAF utilities plant, Congress should move forward with appropriating full funding for the facility.

-- The Topeka Capital-Journal