WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Congressman John K. Delaney (all D-Md.) applaud the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report signed this week by the President, which includes a provision that would require a thorough study of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick. Using language similar to Senator Cardin’s amendment passed in the Senate version of NDAA, which was cosponsored by Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Delaney’s amendment passed in the House version of NDAA, the mandated study would require a report on the implications of recent moves by the Trump Administration to close a unique lab that supports federal law enforcement investigations and identifies biological threats. The Maryland lawmakers wrote to President Trump in July urging him to reverse course on his budget plan to close the NBACC lab.
“The Trump Administration’s move to close the NBACC are ill-advised and this congressionally mandated study should provide the thoughtful analysis needed to upend such plans that would run counter to our national security,” said Senator Cardin. “The need to protect the American people from biological threats continues to be very real and should not be brought to a screeching halt for arbitrary or political reasons,” said Senator Cardin.
“Biological attacks are a serious threat to our homeland, and without the work of the NBACC we would undoubtedly be more vulnerable,” said Senator Van Hollen. “I hope this study will provide the Administration with a clear picture of NBACC’s mission and their vital importance to our country. I will continue to fight this Administration’s puzzling efforts to strip our homeland defense of such an important tool.”
“The country needs NBACC and the efforts by the Trump Administration to abruptly close it have never made much sense. We know NBACC because it’s close to home, but the fact is this is of national importance because it is such a unique and critical facility,” said Congressman Delaney. “The inclusion of this provision protecting NBACC in the NDAA Conference Report reflects a strong bipartisan consensus that we need to hit the brakes here. I would hope that this provision being signed into law sends a clear message to the Administration that NBACC needs to be off the chopping block for good.”
The NDAA conference report provision (Section. 1053) requires a joint report from the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense (DOD) by March 1, 2018, on the functions and end users of the NBACC. The report must detail the cost and mission impact for users if NBACC is closed, including an analysis on NBACC functions that cannot be replicated elsewhere, and must include a transition plan for essential functions. The language requires DHS and DOD to consult with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and other DHS components, when drafting the report, which may include a classified annex. This provision prevents the use of any funds authorized under the NDAA to close or transfer NBACC until the report is submitted to Congress, and the heads of the Federal agencies that use the NBACC certify that its closure would not have a negative effect on biological defense capabilities.