We are all concerned with the plethora of pathogen accidents at Plum Island. We know from HODOR that the new warfare facility is currently engaging in biological warfare experiments under DHS, even though they are not officially open.
In accordance with Congressional Law the United States has conducted the majority of its biological warfare experimentation at Plum Island off the continental United States but that is changing and so the agency governing the installation.
When an agency transfers governorship and responsibility to another agency who is liable, God forbid, when a tragic pathogen release occurs? In the private sector, when one purchases a product, and that company is bought out, all your guarantees and guarantees dissolve. So if an accidental release occurs during the interim or even after the transfer, does the ambiguous nature between absolve one or both agencies from any consequences?
A quick reminder on critical dates is necessary to understand the gravity of these changes.
The Army purchased Plum Island off the Long Island coast after the Spanish American War.
1945-1946-Operation Overcast and Paperclip imported Nazi scientists who saturated the USDA, as well as other sectors.
The Army transferred the facility to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1954 where as a Biolevel Safety 3 facility it conducted experiments on 40 of the worlds most lethal animal pathogens. Scientists, veterinarians, and students some away from their time at the facility so contaminated they sign an agreement to be quarantined for a time.
In 2002, under the Homeland Security Act, the USDA transferred Plum Island to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS wanted to conduct experimentation on the Continental US and chose Manhattan, Kansas to build a state-of-the-art Biolevel 4 facility in the heart of farming and ranching country. The facility has cost $1.25 billion thus far and is called National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, under construction on the campus of Kansas State University.
Embedded within the 2019 federal budget is a proposal to transfer authority over the facility to the USDA, specifically the the Agricultural Research service (ARS). The official transfer would not occur until the facility is fully functional in 2022, but the USDA will be working towards integration long before the lab opens its shingle for business.
Once construction is complete, the ARS will operate NBAF and use the facility to study diseases that threaten the animal agricultural industry and public health while the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) performs diagnostics related to foreign diseases of animals. The labs at NBAF will expand research on foot-and-mouth and have the capacity to do experiments on large numbers of livestock at one time with a greater chance of lab malfunction which has the potential to cause a severe impact upon humans and animals.
Funding is also requested within ARS and APHIS to begin transitioning highly pathogenic animal disease work from the obsolete facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to NBAF. Funding is also requested within ARS and APHIS to begin transitioning highly pathogenic animal disease work from the obsolete facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to NBAF.
We have witnessed this type of financial shell game before such as after Hurricane Katrina. In the past FEMA handled disasters but after the events of 2001 the newly formed DHS needed operational funding and so much of FEMA funding was siphoned off to DHS. After Katrina FEMA went to the Congressional purse-strings requesting operational funding for significant disasters. In the end both agencies were fully funded, at taxpayer expense.
Lawmakers and some officials are saying it’s too early to know the impact of placing the Plum Island's replacement back under the oversight of USDA.
The only things that the House Agriculture and Science and Technology Committee is focusing is that the facility is built on schedule and has funding, not the safety of the American people...until an accident occurs. As the old saying goes, "It is not if, but when," that accident will occur.
“While the proposal to move operational control to USDA is new, we have always expected USDA to play a major role in the research underway at the facility,” Marshall said in an email.
But one scientist who’s been intimately involved with biosecurity research says it’s a mistake to move the Level 4 bio-containment lab away from Homeland Security.
While DHS and the USDA have always had an excellent working relationship, other than funding the lucrative cash cow, it is perplexing why the continual shifting of this political hot potato continues.
Which agency will be in charge when the inevitable catastrophic biological accident occurs in the middle of America?