McCarthy-Mortenson's $1.2B 'agro-defense' facility years delayed, $800M over budget
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University is years behind schedule and has exceeded its original $400 million budget by $800 million, according to Harvest Public Media. A DHS representative maintained, however, that the project is on budget and on schedule.
- Some of the additional costs are related to increased security measures — extra steel and concrete — given the facility’s location in Tornado Alley and review processes to make sure that the biocontainment lab for the study of infectious animal diseases is secure. In 2010, the assessed risk of foot-and-mouth disease being able to escape the Manhattan, Kansas, facility was 70% over the period of 50 years but is now 1% due to design changes, officials said.
- The joint venture of McCarthy Building Cos. and Mortenson Construction, which is building the facility, hopes to be done with construction next year. Officials said the facility, which should have opened last year, will open in 2022.
There are questions around why DHS choose to build a new facility in Kansas to study foot-and-mouth disease when, according to Harvest Public Media, the number of cattle there outpaces the number of people. But there are areas of the country clamoring for construction projects like these, even if there are hazards, and oftentimes politicians are driving their relocation and funding in order to boost local and state economies with construction spending.
Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, for instance, is a staunch advocate for federal investment in his state and recently announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will spend as much as $1 billion expanding its presence in Huntsville. Not long after Shelby’s announcement, Congress passed a $333 billion spending bill that includes $385 million for the project. The FBI already has its Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center and Hazardous Devices School there and plans on building an administrative support building as well.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., also was able to bring home the bacon for his constituents last month when President Donald Trump included funding for a new $900 million Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville to replace the existing Robley Rex VA Medical Center. As with all defense projects expected to cost $100 million or more, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee construction.
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