National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility: Issues for Congress [Updated June 30, 2008]   [open pdf - 150KB]

This Congressional Research Service (CRS) report discusses the directive for the development of agricultural "biocontainment laboratories for research and development of diagnostic capabilities and medical countermeasures for foreign animal and zoonotic diseases. [Further,] To safeguard the United States against the impacts of naturally occurring and intentional animal disease outbreaks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) engages in animal disease research, including research into highly contagious animal pathogens and animal diseases not native to the United States. Such research activities have historically been performed at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), located on an island near Long Island, NY. When creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, Congress transferred the operation of the PIADC facility from USDA to DHS, though USDA still maintains an active research program at PIADC. The DHS, in cooperation with USDA, has established its own research and development program at PIADC. As the federal government undertakes new efforts in human biodefense and defense against agroterrorism, DHS has identified the PIADC facility as "reaching the end of its life cycle" and lacking critical capabilities to continue as the primary facility performing this research. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that, to meet the obligations of HSPD-9, it will establish a new facility, the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). This facility would have high-containment laboratories able to hold the pathogens currently under investigation at PIADC as well as other pathogens of interest. The plans announced by DHS to establish the NBAF have raised congressional and public concerns regarding its safety and security and policy questions about coordination between DHS and USDA regarding the research to be conducted at NBAF. This report outlines current progress towards establishment of the NBAF, presents current and projected funding levels and timelines, and describes policy issues of potential interest to Congress, such as agency coordination, possession of viruses, construction timelines, disposition of PIADC, and community safety concerns."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34160
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