Homeland Security Selects Texas A&M University and University Of Minnesota to Lead New Centers of Excellence on Agro-Security

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For Immediate ReleasePress OfficeContact: 202-282-8010April 27, 2004

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today announces that Texas A&MUniversity and the University of Minnesota have been chosen to lead two newHomeland Security Centers of Excellence (HS-Centers) on agro-security.  TheDepartment anticipates providing Texas A&M University, the University ofMinnesota and their partners with a total of $33 million over the course of thenext three years to address security in two key agricultural sectors -- foreignanimal diseases and food security.  Homeland Security and theseuniversities will soon begin grant negotiations to formalize their partnerships. 

"I am delighted that Texas A&M University and the University ofMinnesota and their teams are partnering with Homeland Security in our effortsto address agro-security challenges," said Homeland Security Secretary TomRidge. "I am confident that the cooperative work of these two Centers ofExcellence will help further the Bush Administration's efforts to ensure thesecurity of the nation's food supply and protect against foreign animaldiseases."

"Protecting our food and agriculture systems is a top priority forPresident Bush," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.  "Researchconducted at these institutions will greatly enhance our ability to protectagainst animal and plant pests and diseases and food pathogens."

The Department of Homeland Security anticipates providing Texas A&MUniversity and its partners with $18 million over the course of the next threeyears for the study of high consequence foreign animal and zoonotic diseases. Texas A&M University has assembled a team of experts from across thecountry, which includes partnerships with the University of Texas MedicalBranch, University of California at Davis, University of Southern California andUniversity of Maryland.  Texas A&M University's HS-Center, which willbe known as the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense,will work closely with partners in academia, industry and government to addresspotential threats to animal agriculture including foot-and-mouth disease, RiftValley fever and Avian influenza.  Their research on foot-and-mouth diseasewill be carried out in close collaboration with Homeland Security's Plum IslandAnimal Disease Center.  The HS-Center's efforts will be headed by Dr.Neville P. Clarke, Director, Agriculture Bio-terrorism Institute, Texas A&MUniversity.

The University of Minnesota's HS-Center, known as the University Center forPost-Harvest Food Protection and Defense, will address agro-security issuesrelated to post-harvest food protection.  The University of Minnesota'steam includes partnerships with major food companies as well as otheruniversities including Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin atMadison, North Dakota State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, RutgersUniversity, Harvard University, University of Tennessee, Cornell University,Purdue University and North Carolina State University.  Homeland Securityanticipates providing the University of Minnesota and its partners with $15million over the course of the next three years to establish best practices andattract new researchers to manage and respond to food contamination events, bothintentional and naturally occurring.  Dr. Francis F. Busta of theUniversity of Minnesota's Department of Food Science and Nutrition will head theHS-Center's efforts.  

Agro-security is a priority for the Department of Homeland Security and theBush Administration as a whole.  The development and promotion of highereducation programs for the protection of animal, plant, food supply and publichealth were some of the measures President Bush called for in Homeland SecurityPresidential Directive Nine: Defense of the United States Agriculture and Food,which was issued on January 30, 2004.  The Department of Homeland Securityand its academic partners will work closely with the Departments of Agricultureand Health and Human Services to ensure the success of these important efforts.

In December 2003, Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directoratereleased a Broad Agency Announcement calling for proposals focusing on researchefforts to address agro-security.  A team of external expert evaluators,including officials from the Department of Agriculture, Department Health andHuman Services' Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agencyand academia, reviewed the 23 proposals received based on merit.  Theirrecommendations, along with those from experts within Homeland Security andother federal agencies, were used to assess the relevance of the proposedresearch to the Department's mission.  This process resulted in site visitsto seven different institutional sites and their partners, and the eventualselection of Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota.

The HS-Centers program, which is operated by the Department's Science andTechnology Directorate, is establishing an integrated network ofuniversity-based centers that will conduct multi-disciplinary research anddevelop innovative educational programs for critical Homeland Security missions. Through this program, Homeland Security and partner universities bringtogether the nation's best experts and focus its most talented researchers on avariety of threats that include agricultural, chemical, biological, nuclear andradiological, explosive and cyber terrorism as well as the behavioral aspects ofterrorism.  

In November 2003, the University of Southern California, partnering with theUniversity of Wisconsin at Madison, New York University, North Carolina StateUniversity, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University was chosen tohouse the first HS-Center, known as the Homeland Security Center for Risk andEconomic Analysis of Terrorism Events.  Their efforts will now also includesupport of these new agro-security Centers of Excellence.  

In 2004, Homeland Security plans to establish additional HS-Centers across avariety of research and development areas of interest to the Department.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and TechnologyDirectorate serves as the primary research and development arm of theDepartment, utilizing our nation's scientific and technological resources toprovide federal, state and local officials with the technology and capabilitiesto protect the homeland.