Officials from the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed a Memorandum of Agreement that formally outlines how the departments will transfer ownership and operational responsibility for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate to USDA.
When the transfer is completed, NBAF will be a biosafety level-4 laboratory in Manhattan, Kan., for the study of diseases that threaten both U.S. agriculture and public health, according to a DHS release.
The state-of-the-art facility will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The new site strategically places it near the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world, providing access to important veterinary, agricultural and biosecurity research and expertise.
The agreement was signed by USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Scott Hutchins, and DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology William Bryan.
“All security starts with food security,” Hutchins said. “Few countries have as successful a history of protecting agriculture and their food supply from both intentional and unintentional threats as does the United States - with NBAF, we are doubling-down on this mission. This will be a unique, state-of-the-art national security asset where we will practice state-of-the-science research to avert and address critical bio-risks to U.S. agriculture.”
DHS will retain responsibility for completing construction and commissioning of the $1.25 billion facility, while USDA will be responsible for all operational planning and eventual operation of the facility. Construction is set for completion in December 2020 and to complete commissioning in May 2021, when ownership of NBAF will be formally transferred to USDA.
“NBAF will be the first facility in the U.S. with maximum biocontainment, BSL-4 labs, where we can develop vaccines and diagnostics for high-consequence animal diseases – including those that can also affect human health,” Ibach said. “These expanded capabilities will enable us to be more dynamic and flexible in responding to disease threats—wherever they come from, whatever they look like.”
The DHS/USDA partnership on NBAF extends back to 2006 when the initial planning began. The capabilities provided by NBAF are critical in the ongoing efforts to protect the nation’s food supply and agriculture economy, Bryan said.
For more information, read the USDA’s strategic vision for NBAF summarizing how NBAF will serve as a national biosecurity asset to protect human and animal health, food safety and the ag economy.
Excitement Grows for Facility That Increases Bio- and Agro-Defense