The Garden City Telegram
9/27/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

NBAF delay

Time for federal government to move forward with project.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she thinks it's time "to fish or cut bait" on proceeding with construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

We, too, think it's time to proceed with the project. But we don't think there's any decision to be made as to whether Homeland Security should "fish or cut bait" on the issue.

The country needs the research facility and the decision to locate it in Manhattan has been made, more than once. ...

Now it's time to release the funding to make it happen.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., reminded Napolitano of that fact during a recent Senate committee hearing and noted that if $90 million already approved for the project wasn't released soon — a matter of weeks — several contracts on the project would have to be rebid.

Manhattan was selected in 2008 as the site for an NBAF to replace an outdated facility on Plum Island, N.Y. ... The latest review of the project again confirmed the necessity of such a research facility and stated the Plum Island laboratory, even if renovated, was inadequate.

The General Services Administration has even scheduled a hearing on Oct. 18 to discuss its plan to sell Plum Island after its animal disease laboratory closes. ...

Some political officials in that area, however, still oppose closing the lab, which employs about 200 people. Others support turning the island into protected open space while still others support development of the property.

Frankly, we don't care what the government does with Plum Island once the laboratory is closed. What is important is that Homeland Security and the GSA know Plum Island is no longer suitable for the research to be conducted at an NBAF and are prepared to close the old lab and sell it.

So it's not time to "fish or cut bait." It's time to release $90 million set aside for the NBAF project — $40 million for a utility plant to power the facility and $50 million to begin construction — and get things moving.

Napolitano says she's eager to release the $40 million. She should make it happen.

-- The Topeka Capital-Journal