Last Wednesday, May 27, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and I broke ground to officially begin construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) main laboratory structure in Manhattan, Kansas. This groundbreaking, the result of many years of hard work, was truly a collaborative, team effort between federal, state and local government and academia.
NBAF will provide leading-edge, state-of-the-art, lab capabilities for protecting the food supply and public health. It’s a vital asset to the nation and the world -- designed to meet the biological and agricultural defense challenges of the 21st Century and beyond. Protection of agricultural is fundamental to the homeland security mission; that is why the lab is so important, why the nation is making such an investment.
As the newest S&T national laboratory, NBAF will bring industry, government, and universities together to conquer some of the most critical modern problems we face. This location in the nation’s Animal Health Corridor was chosen very deliberately because of the proximity to this powerhouse of research capabilities and scientists in industry and academia.
For example, Kansas State University will host a summit next month that will enable S&T and the USDA to meet with livestock producers and others in the industry to gain a better understanding of their needs and to think through what NBAF can achieve through partnership. This will be an important step toward building a foundation that will help optimize use of NBAF and position this new facility as a catalyst for creativity and innovative thinking to address these critical issues.
We also want to hold a National Conversation on NBAF and veterinary science to understand from stakeholders how we can do things differently and make sure the best ideas are considered.
These events are just two examples of why NBAF is primed to become a model for interconnected research. We will continue exploring new ways of engaging with the private sector, agricultural producers, and other groups to ensure NBAF serves as an example of how a federal laboratory facility can operate collaboratively, and leverage the strengths and efficiencies of its partners to propel scientific thinking in new and exciting directions.
Once complete, NBAF will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York which has served our nation as the primary facility for conducting this important research for more than 60 years. NBAF will bring a new dimension, maximum biocontainment capabilities — BSL-4 —necessary in today’s threat environment. This new feature will allow the study of foreign animal, emerging, and zoonotic diseases – those that can be transmitted from animals to humans -- in a safe and contained environment.
When completed in 2022, I am sure NBAF’s capabilities will be a critical asset throughout the bio and agro security communities in the U.S. and around the world.