New public health laboratory for Guam included in 2021 NDAA

(Photo courtesy ABC News)

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language that would authorize the construction of a new biosafety lab in Guam.

A news release from Adelup notes that the Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero wrote to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee in March to request reconsideration of the Economic Adjustment Committee’s (EAC) Implementation Plan recommendation to construct a Guam Public Health Laboratory capable of biosafety level 2/3 analytical testing.

The language that has now been included in the bill states: “Additional Exception to the Restriction on the Development of Public Infrastructure in Connection with Realignment of Marine Corps Forces in Asia-Pacific Region—

This section would authorize a public infrastructure project on Guam intended to provide a public health laboratoryas identified in the ‘Economic Adjustment Committee Implementation Plan Supporting the Preferred Alternative for the Relocation of Marine Corps Forces to Guam.’”

“The bill has the support of the Secretary of Defense and I am confident it will pass,” states the Governor in the release.

Guam’s role as a point of origin for foreign visitors to the United States, combined with the free migration of citizens from the Compacts of Freely Associated States, increases the need for analytical testing services on Guam. In addition, the expected increase of H‐2B workers and the transitory nature of the population increases the probabilities of an adverse public health event.

“Analytical testing is critical to the early detection, early warning, and early containment for the citizens of Guam and the United States,” said Governor Leon Guerrero. “If such a capability existed on Guam at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, it could have accelerated our ability to test our people and contain the spread of the virus.”

The Governor added: “It is imperative that a new Public Health lab be constructed and commissioned as soon as possible since the enhanced analytical testing mitigates a risk of exposure to the current population, both military and civilian, and to the national public health system.”

The provision was included in the subcommittee mark which will be marked up during the House Armed Services Committee Full Committee mark-up on July 1.  The bill will then be considered by the full House of Representatives later in July.

The Governor and the Military Build-up Office continue to work to secure funding for the public health lab with both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees as well as the Congressional Appropriations Committees.