K-State's National Agricultural Biosecurity Center receives $1.3 Million from Department of Defense

September 09, 2004

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- The Department of Defense has awarded a $1.38 million two-year contract to the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at Kansas State University.

Through efforts by the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center and its three subcontractors, the project will develop content and software to help the nation's emergency management personnel respond more effectively to an agricultural or zoonotic bioterrorist event.

The project is called "Situational Competency, Simulations and Lessons Learned for Food/Agricultural Bioterrorism." The Department of Defense is funding the project through the Technical Support Working Group of the Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office.

Principal investigator is Marty Vanier, DVM, assistant director and program coordinator of the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center.

Subcontracting partners are: University of Alabama-Birmingham's Center for Emergency Care and Disaster Preparedness; Cell Exchange, Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.,-based software and technology developer; and Analytic Services, Inc., (ANSER), an Arlington, Va.,-based public service research institute that provides information systems delivery.

As partners on the project, Analytic Services, Inc., will compile an agrosecurity lessons learned database based on modifications of existing software; Cell Exchange will create a "dashboard technology" based on its "Protect America" real time content aggregation system; the University of Alabama-Birmingham will create a series of rotating images to increase awareness of agricultural biopreparedness.

The elements will be integrated into an National Agricultural Biosecurity Center portal at K-State, Vanier explained.

She said the first objective is to scour the nation's emergency response community for examples of significant lessons it has learned from various agrosecurity response efforts, including naturally occurring outbreaks of diseases of plants and production animals, and response exercise simulations.

"We're going to be looking at the full spectrum of agrosecurity issues," Vanier said. "We will emphasize diseases identified by the government as zoonotic and/or ones particularly threatening to U.S. agriculture and its infrastructure.

"Those include foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and exotic Newcastle disease," she said.

Federal, state, non-profit and private industry groups will be contacted, in search of response lessons.

An initial list of agencies the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center will contact includes several U.S. Department of Agriculture services, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Fire Academy, U.S. Northern Command, states, professional organizations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the National War College, and foreign agricultural and food safety agencies.

"Once we have compiled the agricultural bioterrorism lessons," Vanier said, "we will adapt existing software and technologies to handle agrosecurity issues and to be used by emergency management personnel at all levels who need to access such agrosecurity information."

Plans are to create an integrated system accessible to the end-users via the Internet. The lessons learned database, real time content aggregations, and continuing education Web site applications will give veterinarians, county extension agents, food producers and processors, public health officials and others, an environment in which they can access relatively static data and also dynamic, relevant real time information, she explained.

"Having the critical information at the ready -- this library of what works and how to do it -- will empower the nation's first responders with knowledge, skills and capabilities to act effectively in the face of an agroterrorism incident," Vanier said.

Kansas State University

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