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Questions remain about when, if NBAF money will come

By Bryan Richardson

Now that President Barack Obama has included $714 million for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in his proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, the question is how likely that money is to be available, and when.

The facility is slated to replace Plum Island Animal Disease Center as the nation’s lead facility for handling large animal disease research and protecting the U.S. food supply. The NBAF site is adjacent to the KSU Research Park.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said Wednesday that the proposal showed a commitment by the administration and the Department of Homeland Security to get the facility built.

Still, he acknowledged that the proposed funding has to be approved by both houses of Congress.

Until Wednesday, House and Senate appropriations panels were working on their respective documents without the guidance of a presidential budget. Discussions aimed at reconciling their proposals normally take place during the summer.

There’s no certainty that a budget will pass. Both chambers are required to pass a budget by the Sept. 30 deadline, but that hasn’t happened in the Senate since fiscal year 10.

Since then the federal government has been funded through a series of appropriations bills and continuing resolutions. One alternative would be attaching the NBAF funds to one of those appropriations bills.

Another potential concern is a set of financial issues, chiefly sequestration. That will reduce spending by $85 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. The sequester process, which will last through fiscal year 2021, is supposed to slow spending growth in order to reduce the deficit.

If final funding action on NBAF doesn’t match up to the president’s proposal, it wouldn’t be the first time. For fiscal year 2012, Obama requested $150 million, but Congress only appropriated $50 million.

The project’s estimated cost is more than $1 billion. Passage of the president’s budget would make a total of $861 million available for construction.

That would include the $714 million recommended Wednesday, $67 million left over from FY10 and FY12 appropriation bills, and $80 million for the central utilities plant — $40 million from federal government and $40 million from a state match.

The federal money for the central utility plant was finally released after the Department of Homeland Security received the site land from Kansas and hired a company to build the plant. It is still the only money officially able to be used.

Obama is requesting that Kansas invest another $202 million in matching state funds to address the rest of the project.

Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement Wednesday that he will work with the legislature to approve the additional bonding needed to fund that amount during the upcoming veto session.

“The NBAF is vital to the security of our country’s food supply, the health of our livestock industry and growing our state’s economy,” Brownback said.

Kansas already has committed $105 million of matching state funds to the NBAF project and $35 million of research funding for transitioning the NBAF mission to Manhattan.

So far, DHS has invested nearly $200 million into site preparation, engineering, design, and site-specific risk-assessments.

A January 2012 economic impact report found the NBAF will employ approximately 326 permanent workers and support about 757 construction jobs.

It is expected to have a $3.5 billion economic impact on the state in the facility’s first 20 years of use.

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