San Antonio Homeland Security Facility

Written by Randy Watson

San Antonio is joining Texas A&M as finalists, hoping to land a new agricultural research facility that the Homeland Security Department is looking to build. Among the 17 nationwide sites that the government is looking at, 4 of them are located in Texas, with 3 in the San Antonio area. The fourth is at A&M.

In San Antonio, Brooks City-Base, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, and the Texas Research Park are among the finalists to win the $450 million project, called the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. Once built, the facility would be dedicated to studying agricultural safety issues, and would focus on possible threats to the nation\'s food supply from terrorists, as well as on diseases that occur naturally. Currently, the U.S.\'s food supply is among the safest in the world, but threats such as hoof-and-mouth disease could easily be imported, and lead to a economic crisis, devastating the beef industry.

 Although the U.S. food supply is very safe, there are many holes in the supply and processing chain that could be exploited by someone seeking to taint a product.

A tiny fraction of imported goods are inspected, and this new facility would study prevention of diseases, and also detecting and diagnosing them in their earliest stages.

The Homeland Security team will be meeting with just 15 local officials, and the meetings will be held in private. Homeland Security hopes to narrow the list to 3-4 by the end of the month, and then to select the site in October of 2008, construction to begin in 2010, and the lab to be operational in 2014.

Texas certainly has a good shot at landing the facility, as the veterinary medicine schools in the state are among the finest in the country, and Texas has four sites out of 17 left in the running.