DHS official calls NBAF progress ‘tremendous’

By Bethany Knipp

All the way from Washington, D.C., three Kansas congressmen and an official of the Department of Homeland Security visited the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Friday morning.

DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology Reginald Brothers, along with Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Tim Huelskamp toured the new partially constructed utility plant for NBAF, a future $1 billion animal disease research center at 1980 Denison Ave.

It was Brothers’ first time seeing the facility.

“I’ve seen information on this before and understand the importance of it, but I think being here, seeing the scale of it, seeing the progress on it, talking to folks, is just tremendous,” Brothers said.

Brothers and the congressmen, as well as Landon Fulmer, the chief of staff to Gov. Sam Brownback and executive director of the NBAF in Kansas steering committee, went through the plant with DHS staff.

Brothers said the staff told of seven giant generators that will power NBAF’s labs. Five are required.

In case one needs repair or doesn’t work, Brothers said the redundancy is good. The facility can also withstand tornado winds of 230 miles per hour.

“I think from my understanding, all the design standards are beyond what has been recommended… after we did a study on the risk assessment,” Brothers said.

“To safeguard our nation’s food supply, that’s why this is here,” Roberts said. The facility’s research will consist of protecting livestock from diseases that could threaten the food supply.

“This has been a 12-year effort. It’s been a long effort,” Roberts said. He said much of the planning for the facility is squared away.

Laboratory construction is expected to begin in 2015, according to the DHS website.

Moran said it’s just a matter of getting the final $300 million, which has been approved by House and Senate committees but still needs final approval by Congress and President Barack Obama.

He said if the appropriation is made by March, everything will be on schedule.

Huelskamp said he’s supported NBAF from the beginning.

He said one of his concerns was that with any delays, those would be “delays in protecting America’s food supply.”

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