The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has completed the construction and commissioning of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF is the first U.S. laboratory with biosafety level-4 containment, capable of housing large livestock animals; and one of only a few facilities in the world with these capabilities. With contract administration support from DHS’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) managed and completed the project under the $1.25 billion budget for the construction and commissioning effort, which spanned 17 years from initial planning to completion.
“The mission of the new facility is to protect the U.S. against transboundary, emerging, and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten the food supply, agricultural economy, and public health,” said Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “Since 2005, S&T and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have collaborated on the requirements for this next-generation science facility that will replace DHS’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), a biosafety level-3 facility in New York that is more than 65 years old.”
DHS is preparing to formally transfer ownership of the NBAF site to USDA in the coming weeks as the final step of a unique phased transition of operations that began in April 2021. Full mission transfer from the PIADC to NBAF is projected to take a couple of years.
In 2009, after a three-year selection process led by DHS, the Manhattan, Kansas, site was selected from among 29 applications as the site to build this new facility. S&T retained responsibility for completing construction and commissioning the facility until 2019 when legislation directed that the facility be ultimately owned and operated by USDA.
While the completion of construction and commissioning ends DHS’s responsibility for NBAF, DHS and USDA will maintain a strategic partnership by utilizing this national security asset to successfully execute their joint mission to protect the nation’s food supply, agriculture economy, and public health.
“DHS intends to leverage the broad network of homeland security-focused R&D infrastructure through collaborative partnerships with research facilities across the federal and state governments, academia, and private sector, including NBAF,” said Dr. Herb Wolfe, acting chief medical officer and director for the Office of Health Security (OHS). “DHS has a responsibility to defend the food, agriculture, and veterinary systems of the United States against intentional, accidental, and naturally occurring high-consequence events, and will take a whole-of-government approach to accelerate and expand R&D of current and new capabilities to enhance the security and resilience of the food and agriculture sector.”
In addition to systems and components critical to science operations and safety, S&T ensured the design of NBAF included features that exceed expectations for sustainable development. As a result, NBAF was awarded the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council. NBAF is the first and only large-scale federal biocontainment laboratory in the United States to achieve LEED Gold certification or better.
“The completion of NBAF’s construction and commissioning, not only within the budget established back in 2014, but even under that budget, is a direct result of the diligent efforts of the DHS team at the site here in Manhattan and at S&T headquarters,” said Tim Barr, DHS NBAF program manager. “The technical and managerial complexities of this project demanded a top-notch federal oversight staff, and that is exactly what DHS brought to bear in the execution of the NBAF program.”
A ribbon cutting event hosted by USDA to celebrate this joint agency achievement was held on May 24 at the NBAF site in Manhattan, Kansas.