Kansas officials back Trump plan for biodefense lab
MANHATTAN — Kansas officials are backing President Donald Trump’s plan to switch federal agency control of a biodefense laboratory complex under construction in the state.
The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan is currently controlled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The $1.25 billion project will aid efforts to prepare for threats against agriculture and research how to protect the country’s food supply, according to federal and state officials.
Trump this year proposed handing over operational control of the facility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of his budget plan. Federal officials and Kansas lawmakers on Monday supported the bureaucratic changeover, the Wichita Eagle reported .
“We plan at DHS to continue to work with USDA so we’ll have a very smooth transition after construction,” said DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who toured the facility this week.
The change brought some concern from former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, who said the facility could face cuts if placed into the USDA’s budget.
“Keep in mind, (USDA) has crop insurance and food assistance programs that always generate intense interest and questions when it comes to budgeting,” said Carlin, a Democrat. “Will NABF face operational cuts in order to satisfy those other legitimate needs?”
Shifting operational control won’t change the facility’s mission and both agencies will continue to maintain a close working relationship, according to Republican Sen. Jerry Moran.
“That’s been a significant part of the plan since the beginning,” Moran said. “The question is who retains legal ownership and Homeland Security and Department of Agriculture have been working very closely together.”
Construction on the facility is about two-thirds complete. The facility is expected begin operating in 2022 or 2023.