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New York Officials Fear Closing of US Lab Combating Biological Threats

October 23,2017 03:11

“The lab has provided an invaluable amount of information to us over the years, including helping us understand biological and nuclear threats when nobody understood that stuff,” said Gerard McCarty, the director of emergency management at the Port ...and more »

The spokesman said the research and testing could be done elsewhere, including at Department of Energy laboratories, adding that such work did not rely solely on the lab in New York.
But in interviews, law enforcement and emergency management officials in New York and New Jersey, as well as members of Congress from both parties, said they were concerned about the potential loss of a Homeland Security research lab in a city that remains a top target for terrorists.
Some officials pointed out that the lab’s annual budget was just $3.4 million, and others noted that its work had saved communities millions of dollars in research costs.
“It’s less than a pittance in the federal budget,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “It’s not even a fraction of a rounding error and has broad ramifications and impact on the law enforcement community.”
Mr. Blumenthal and three other Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee asking them to include funding for the lab in the 2018 budget, saying its loss would have serious repercussions for national security. The other signers were Kirsten E/ Gillibrand of New York, Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut.
In the House, Representative Dan Donovan, Republican of New York, sponsored an amendment to a spending bill, passed in September, that would maintain the lab’s funding.
“Today, the United States — and specifically New York City — faces a heightened terror environment,” Mr. Donovan said in a statement. “Bombing attempts in New York and New Jersey last year, as well as global attacks in public areas and on mass transit systems, remind us of the importance of developing innovative technologies that allow security personnel to respond to and mitigate evolving threats.”
Some experts said they doubted that other labs could easily take over the work done by the New York lab, which was established in 1947 as part of the nation’s drive to develop nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.
“It would be a big loss to the first responder community if the lab is closed,” said Charles Jennings, a professor at John Jay College in New York who directs the Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies. “It’s hard to overstate the importance of what they do. Although it’s based here in New York, its impact is nationwide. It’s a service you just can’t get anywhere else.”
Congress has yet to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began this month — the government is operating on an extension of the previous year’s spending plan — but staff members at the urban security lab have been told to begin making preparations for its closing.

New York City,Laboratories and Scientific Equipment,Terrorism,Homeland Security Department,United States Politics and Government

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