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Frequently Asked Questions

What is NBAF?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to open the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). After a 3-year site selection process, Manhattan, KS was selected in 2009 as the location for NBAF. DHS is building the state-of-the-art facility to standards that fulfill the mission of USDA. Once construction and commissioning activities are complete, USDA will own and operate NBAF.

NBAF’s Vision:
A safer and more resilient America through a world-class science facility for large animal agricultural research, training and diagnostics.

NBAF will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), a biosafety level-3 facility that is more than 65 years old. Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in this facility. ARS and APHIS will transfer their research and diagnostic missions from PIADC to NBAF and will operate the facility jointly. USDA and DHS will continue to collaborate on national security research priorities.

Why does the U.S. need NBAF?

Protecting livestock and agricultural interests also protects the economy. Agriculture, food and food processing contribute more than $1.1 trillion to the U.S. economy’s gross domestic product per year. In addition, 11 percent of jobs — about 22 million — have some ties to agriculture.

NBAF’s Mission:
To protect the United States against transboundary, emerging, and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health.

How will NBAF protect the food supply?

At NBAF, USDA will continue to conduct comprehensive research, develop vaccines and anti-virals, and provide enhanced diagnostic and training capabilities to protect the nation from foreign or transboundary animal diseases — those that can enter the U.S. from another country. They will also focus on diseases that are:

  • Emerging — are new or not well known.
  • Zoonotic — normally exist in animals but can also infect humans.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 70% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. USDA will expand its scientific work at NBAF and be the first in the U.S. to provide maximum biocontainment (biosafety level-4) laboratories capable of housing large livestock to develop vaccines and diagnostics for zoonotic diseases. Through these initiatives, USDA will expand its support of global health and food security. NBAF will be a critical component of USDA’s priority to develop vaccines and countermeasures for — as well as the early detection of — diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from the nation’s farms and fields.

NBAF will also have a Biologics Development Module, which will enhance and expedite the transition of new innovations from research to commercially viable countermeasures.

How much will NBAF cost and when will construction be finished?

The 574,000 square-foot facility next to Kansas State University will cost $1.25 billion. The acquisition cost is fully funded through a combination of $938 million in federal appropriations, $307 million in funding provided by the State of Kansas, and $5 million from the City of Manhattan (Kansas).

Due to COVID-19 disruptions, the DHS Science & Technology Directorate and USDA have collaborated to realign the NBAF schedule. USDA is currently working in a phased transition before assuming full responsibility for NBAF’s operations. With the new schedule, federal officials can address necessary technology upgrades identified since the design was completed in 2012 and install USDA-funded equipment.

Why the transition of responsibility for NBAF from DHS to USDA?

Per guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, DHS and USDA started planning for USDA to take over complete ownership and management of NBAF once the facility is commissioned. The transition of responsibility from DHS to USDA will result in a more efficient alignment of core mission functions.

How is NBAF’s transition between USDA and DHS happening?

DHS has responsibility for finishing construction of the facility, while USDA will assume and retain operational responsibility for the facility. USDA will be responsible for the operations of the completed facility for about two years before the facility reaches full operational capacity (FOC).

USDA and DHS have developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to outline agency responsibilities for the transition and are working together closely to execute plans.

How many USDA employees will work at NBAF?

NBAF will eventually have about 400 USDA personnel. At the beginning of 2021, approximately 230 team members have been hired to support NBAF operations and more than 40 personnel are committed to supporting NBAF’s science teams. Despite the pandemic, NBAF continues to hire team members. Be on the lookout for openings on USAJobs and follow NBAF on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates.

How will NBAF engage with the community?

NBAF is actively engaged with the community providing updates by request and representing USDA NBAF at various local, state and regional events. Please send all questions and requests for NBAF presentations to nbaf@usda.gov.

What role could NBAF have played in the COVID-19 pandemic, and what role could it have in future pandemics?

The mission of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is to protect the United States against transboundary, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health. NBAF will be a critical component of a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priority—the development of animal vaccines and other countermeasures for the detection of diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from our nation’s farms and fields.

From the public health perspective, NBAF will provide the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the United States, enabling us to work on the most high-consequence “zoonotic” animal diseases—those that can infect both livestock and people. Some studies have pointed to the fact that COVID-19 has an animal component, which means it could fall into the zoonotic category. In fact, over 70 percent of emerging diseases that have affected humans in the last 10 years have an animal component. So while NBAF will largely focus on animal diseases, it could play a supporting role in future public health crises with respect to livestock research, diagnostics, countermeasure development, training and response.

What specific expertise will NBAF bring to the table for future pandemics?

Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in New York at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) which is more than 60 years old. NBAF will replace this aging facility but will continue and expand on its mission making NBAF the home of internationally recognized animal disease experts who will likely be called upon to assist other countries in addressing significant animal disease situations and to partner with public health officials when needed to protect animal and human health.

NBAF will also be the future home of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) currently located at PIADC. FADDL’s mission is to provide 24/7 diagnostic testing to rapidly detect and respond to an introduction of a high-consequence, foreign animal disease into the United States like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or African swine fever. But because NBAF will have the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the U.S., we’ll also be able to identify, conduct research and develop veterinary countermeasures for the most high-consequence zoonotic diseases that can infect both livestock and people. Being able to identify these diseases in animals as soon as possible is critical to minimizing the impact on public health. The training facilities at NBAF will allow us to double the number of veterinarians trained by the FADDL team every year as part of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician Course, which provides an opportunity for federal and state veterinarians to see these diseases in real time so they can better understand them and know what to look for should an outbreak occur.