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DHS Dedicates New Biodefense Lab

Administrative workers should begin moving into the Department of Homeland Security's new National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Fort Detrick within six months.

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Administrative workers should begin moving into the Department of Homeland Security's new National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Fort Detrick within six months. Wednesday, officials from the City of Frederick and Frederick County governments, Congress, DHS, the U.S. Army and FBI were on hand for dedication of the $150 million lab.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, predicted the National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick, of which the NBACC is a part, would make Frederick synonymous with biodefense, just as Bethesda is with the National Institutes of Health in the research community.
 
"What we are developing here is going to be the premier biodefense campus in the world," he said.
 
Biodefense labs critic Beth Willis said questions remain about the center's mission, and lab officials didn't respond to a request to meet with the public and discuss those details.
 
Overall, in light of reports such as one released last week by the Government Accountability Office, criticizing physical security at two of the five existing biosecurity level-4 labs, the nation needs to put a hold on the expansion of such labs and review the policies driving it, she said.
 
The two main functions performed at the center will be the forensic analysis of biological agents used in crimes and terrorist attacks, and the assessment of current and future biological threats.
 
The center has been operating out of leased space at the USAMRIID, also at Fort Detrick, and helped support the FBI's investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings.
 
The building's administrative offices are scheduled to open in March 2009, and the process of certifying the biocontainment labs should start in May, according to a center spokesman.
 
The new building contains administrative space and biocontainment labs, including 40,000 square feet of biosecurity level-3 labs and 10,000 square feet of biosecurity level-4 labs, said Andrew Kerin, the Department of Homeland Security's construction manager for the project.
 
The lab has 104 employees, though that will be increasing to roughly 150, Fitch said. Its annual budget is $50 million.