National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility: Issues for Congress [Updated October 4, 2007] [open pdf - 130KB]
"The agricultural and food infrastructure of the United States is potentially susceptible to terrorist attack using biological pathogens. In addition to the impacts of such an attack on the economy, some animal diseases could potentially be transmitted to humans. (These diseases are known as zoonotic diseases.) Scientific and medical research on plant and animal diseases may lead to the discovery and development of new diagnostics and countermeasures, reducing the risk and impact of a successful terrorist attack. […] To safeguard the United States against animal disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) engages in research on animal diseases not native to the United States at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) off the coast of New York. With the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, the PIADC facility was transferred from USDA to DHS, though USDA continues its research program at the facility. DHS has established a foreign animal disease research program in cooperation with USDA at PIADC. DHS has identified the facility as outdated and too limited to continue to be the primary research facility. […] The plans announced by DHS to establish the NBAF have raised several issues that may interest Congress. Community concerns about safety and security, previously raised about PIADC and other laboratories being built to study dangerous pathogens, are also being raised about the NBAF. Coordination between DHS and USDA, prioritization, and investment in agricultural biodefense may be reassessed once more high-containment laboratory space becomes available."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34160