The livestock industry, which contributes over $100 billion annually to the national economy, is vulnerable to foreign animal diseases that, if introduced in the United States, could cause severe economic losses. To protect against such losses, critical research and diagnostic activities are conducted at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) was responsible for Plum Island until June 2003, when provisions of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred the facility to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under an interagency agreement, USDA continues to work on foreign animal diseases at the island. GAO examined (1) DHS and USDA coordination of research and diagnostic activities, (2) changes in research and diagnostic priorities since the transfer, and (3) long-term objectives of joint activities at Plum Island.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Science and Technology Directorate||To make more effective use of Plum Island's limited laboratory space in the short term, DHS's Science and Technology Directorate, in consultation with USDA's Agricultural Research Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, should pursue opportunities to shift work that does not require the unique features of Plum Island to other institutions and research centers.||
Closed – Implemented