National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility

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The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) is a planned United States government-run research facility that will replace the 1950s-era Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, which is "nearing the end of its lifecycle and is too small to meet the nation’s research needs."[1] The NBAF will be operated under the authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services (USDA-APHIS-VS) as primary research partners.[1][2]

The facility will be located in Manhattan, Kansas, and will employ between 250 and 350 people.[1][2] Construction on the 574,000-square-foot (53,300 m2) facility officially began in May 2015.[3] Although delayed from its original timeline, the facility is now scheduled to be completely constructed and permitted by 2022.[1][3][4] Operations will be fully transferred from the Plum Island facility by 2023.[5]

After the Manhattan location was finalized in 2009, the Government Accountability Office questioned the choice of location in a July 2010 draft report, because it is located on the mainland U.S. unlike the current Plum Island facility.[6] This led to a further "site-specific" study of the facility's safety, issued by DHS in 2012.[7]


The NBAF was initially proposed because the current facility on Plum Island was considered inadequate by DHS, as the facility is too small and does not have Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) capabilities.[8]

The new facility will research and develop countermeasures to combat high-consequence biological threats involving human, zoonotic (i.e., transmitted from animals to humans), and foreign animal diseases.[2] Included among the diseases to be studied at the research lab are: foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.[2] Approximately 10% of the facility will be used for BSL-4 level research.[1]

NBAF location[edit]

DHS decided to locate the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas, after a multi-year process. Out of 29 original sites considered in 2006, the agency selected six finalists in 2008:

Before the selection of the site, several rural advocacy groups, such as the National Grange, spoke out against the idea of locating the facility on the mainland.[9] In addition, groups formed in Manhattan; Athens, Georgia; and Butner, North Carolina to oppose the laboratory's proposed location in those cities.[10][11]

By memo dated December 4, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security named the Kansas site as the preferred location for the NBAF. On January 16, 2009, the record of decision was published in the Federal Register.[8]

Risk assessments[edit]

Plum Island is the only research facility currently studying foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the U.S. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to evaluate the evidence DHS used to support its determinations that FMD work can be done safely on the U.S. mainland, whether an island location provides any additional protection over and above that provided by modern high containment laboratories on the mainland, and the economic consequences of an FMD outbreak on the U.S. mainland.

Because of concerns raised by the GAO in 2010, Congress instructed DHS to complete a "site-specific biosafety and biosecurity risk assessment."[6][10] It also directed the National Academy of Sciences to appoint a committee of the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct an independent evaluation of this site-specific risk analysis to determine its adequacy and validity. Congress would not release construction funds until these were completed and evaluated.

DHS completed the requisite site-specific risk analysis (SSRA) in March 2012, and the NRC committee issued its evaluation of the SSRA in June 2012.[7][12]


NBAF construction site in Manhattan in 2013

The facility is under construction. Preliminary clearing and grading of the proposed site began in 2010, construction on the site's power plant began in 2013, and construction of the lab began in 2015.

On January 2, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security accepted a transfer of land from the State of Kansas for the site of the facility. In March 2013, a contract was awarded for the construction of a central utility plant for the NBAF.[4] An official groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the power plant was held on May 28, 2013.[13]

The federal government budgeted $440 million for construction and related work on the NBAF under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, signed into law on January 17, 2014. President Barack Obama included an additional $300 million for construction in his proposed 2015 budget, constituting the final installment of federal construction spending for the facility. This funding was secured when President Obama signed into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015, on March 3, 2015.

A groundbreaking ceremony for construction on the full facility was held on May 27, 2015.[3][14] It was attended by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Archived from the original on 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  2. ^ a b c d "Facility Research & Staffing". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  3. ^ a b c d Viviani, Nick; Thompson, Monty (May 27, 2015), Hundreds Turn Out For NBAF Groundbreaking,, retrieved June 9, 2015
  4. ^ a b Carpenter, Tim (April 10, 2013). "Obama Budget Offers $714M for NBAF". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  5. ^ Lysen, Dylan (February 5, 2017). "On Track: NBAF construction 'on time, budget' according to officials". The Manhattan Mercury. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ a b Leonnig, Carol D. (2009-07-27). "Infectious diseases study site questioned: Tornado Alley may not be safe, GAO says". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  7. ^ a b "DHS Issues Updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment for Proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF)" (Press release). U.S. Department of Homeland Security. March 2, 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
  8. ^ a b Federal Register: ROD for NBAF (English), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, January 16, 2009, retrieved 2010-07-21
  9. ^ "National Grange Opposes Mainland Research Facility". Archived from the original on 2008-10-25. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  10. ^ a b "Dangerous Animal Virus on US Mainland?". The Associated Press. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  11. ^ No NBAF in Kansas
  12. ^ "Officials press feds for NBAF". Lawrence Journal-World. 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2013-05-14.
  13. ^ Milburn, John (May 28, 2013). "Kansas officials break ground on NBAF project". Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-05-28. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Williams, Mara Rose (May 30, 2015). "Foreseeing an economic boom, Manhattan, Kan., opens its arms to new lab". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2015-06-09.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°12′11″N 96°35′03″W / 39.20306°N 96.58417°W / 39.20306; -96.58417