Archive for Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sparks fly in Kansas congressional delegation over NBAF and budget deal

December 17, 2013


— Kansas' highly anticipated $1.15 billion biosecurity lab has become a focal point in the Republican Party struggle over federal spending and the recent budget deal.

The brouhaha has split the all-Republican Kansas delegation and unleashed a flurry of assertions and counter-assertions.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose district includes Lawrence, said she voted for the bi-partisan budget deal, in part, because it would ensure appropriations for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, to be built in Manhattan.

No budget plan, she said, would have meant a "stop work notice" for NBAF, which will study animal diseases and develop measures to protect the nation's food supply.

The budget bill passed in the House and is now being considered by the Senate.

But members of the Kansas congressional delegation who oppose the budget deal say Jenkins was wrong to invoke NBAF.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who was one of the leaders in helping Kansas land NBAF, opposes the budget deal. His spokesperson, Sarah Little, said, "A budget does not guarantee funding for any project, appropriations bills do."

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, of Fowler, whose district includes NBAF, voted against the budget, saying it raised taxes and overspent.

But NBAF, he said, could be funded through agreements outside the budget bill.

"With or without passage of this deal, the current funding for the federal government expires on January 15th. The House, Senate and President have until that date to pass a spending bill. We can appropriately comment on what may or may not have been included for NBAF at that time," Huelskamp said.

But Jenkins pushed back in her defense of voting for the budget plan that had been negotiated by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and U.S. Sen. Pat Murray, R-Wash.

Her office released statements from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

"The Ryan-Murray Budget agreement gives us the opportunity to fight for the House-passed NBAF funding level of $404 million. Failing to pass it would more than likely result in continuing the current inadequate funding level," Boehner said.

Rogers stated: "Sequestration is a ham-handed way to do business - it indiscriminately cuts the good, like the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility, with the bad. The Ryan-Murray budget agreement will allow Congress to support critical programs such as this facility, and make responsible funding decisions to keep our nation and our people safe."

Getting funds for NBAF has been a top priority for Kansas officials since the project was awarded to the state in 2009.

The Department of Homeland Security would build the facility at Kansas State University to replace an aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y.

NBAF is scheduled to be completed in 2018.


Michael LoBurgio 4 years, 4 months ago

NBAF is a classic example of politics trumping public safety

Tornado Alley too dangerous for pathogen research lab

Graphic images of utter devastation from the EF-5 tornado that slammed into Moore, Okla., are a stark reminder of the power of cyclonic storms in the Great Plains to destroy virtually all above-ground structures that lie in their path.

They should also be a warning of the folly of building a federal research lab handling the most dangerous pathogens on earth in the heart of Tornado Alley. And yet that is exactly what the Department of Homeland Security is planning to do in Manhattan, Kan., which in 2008 was struck by an EF-4 tornado similar to the one that leveled Moore, Okla.

The decision of the DHS to build the National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, in Manhattan, Kan., is a classic example of politics trumping safety and the lengths that state officials and members of Congress will go to secure a billion-dollar federal project in times of economic hardship. Designed to replace the aging Plum Island lab on Long Island, the NBAF will conduct research in maximum containment labs on pathogens that represent a grave threat to humans and livestock, whether from terrorist attacks or natural outbreaks.

To this day, supporters of building the NBAF in Kansas insist that it will be designed to withstand even a direct hit from a tornado. That assertion is simply belied by the written design analysis of the project's own architects and engineers and by an independent risk analysis ordered by Congress after the selection of the Kansas site. In fact, the NBAF was designed to withstand wind forces that do not exceed 90 mph. An EF-4 tornado packs winds of 207 to 260 mph. Buried deep in the several-hundred page long risk assessment conducted by the DHS of the five “finalists” sites (which included San Antonio) was a finding that the NBAF was not designed to withstand a tornado and was at risk of a structural collapse if subjected to wind forces in excess of 150 mph.

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