Congress approves funds for Plum Island replacement

Published on November 18, 2009
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Congress recently voted to appropriate $32 million in initial funding for the new National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility, a research complex that would replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of Long Island, N.Y.

The AVMA Executive Board, meeting by conference call prior to the final Senate and House votes, approved supporting appropriations for the design and construction of the NBAF in Manhattan, Kan. The AVMA was a signatory on a letter of support along with former federal health officials and current deans of veterinary colleges.

According to the letter: "America needs an integrated research, testing and development facility that focuses on animal diseases, many of which can have a significant impact on human health. While Plum Island has fulfilled this need for many years, it is well-established that the facility can no longer achieve its mission."

Early this year, the Department of Homeland Security selected the Kansas site for the NBAF. In late July, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report criticizing the DHS analyses that concluded researchers can study foot-and-mouth disease as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island.

In the DHS appropriations bill, Congress included provisions requiring the DHS to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an independent risk assessment for the NBAF site in Kansas—at a cost of up to $2 million of the initial NBAF funding.

President Obama had not taken action on the bill as of press time, but his budget request for fiscal 2010 included funds for the NBAF. Congress reduced the amount from $36 million to $32 million.