Over the past year, if observers and opponents of a federal disease research lab felt like they were watching a dog and pony show hosted by the Department of Homeland Security and the N.C. Consortium, well, it’s because it was a dog and pony show.

The importance of managing the media and the message regarding the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility is highlighted in a document issued by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Final Selection Memorandum for Second Round Potential Sites (PDF, 1.3 MB) was published in July 2007, but was not made public. It was written and approved by Jay Cohen, the Selection Authority, Under Secretary, Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security.

Butner is among the six finalists for the NBAF, although the N.C. Consortium said last week it would suspend its bid for the project, after support for it dwindled among elected officials.

According to the Memorandum, criteria for the proposed sites included the “level of public reaction.” It posed several questions and discussion points, such as:

  • “How much of the media coverage is consortium generated versus generated by others?”
  • “Describe any known public opposition to the NBAF and plans for the consortium to manage the opposition.”
  • “Describe the consortium’s short- and long-term plans to engage and inform local, state and national stakeholders/ community.”

It’s no wonder, then, that last month the N.C. Consortium asked for, and received, more than a quarter-million dollars from the Golden LEAF Foundation for an “educational campaign” on the NBAF. However, when Consortium members realized their materials would be reviewed by the Foundation for impartiality and truthfulness, it returned the funding.

And this month’s NC Magazine, a Chamber of Commerce publication, contains a glowing story about NBAF, quoting only Consortium members and other boosters, with no mention of the opposition or the elected officials that had withdrawn their support.

Butner scored highest with a 94, as an average among all the criteria. Under “Community Acceptance,” Butner received a 95, but that was before the Indy‘s cover story on the pitfalls of the project and the opposition that formed shortly after. More than 4,000 people have signed a petition opposing the NBAF; councils and commissions in Raleigh, Durham and surrounding counties have also voted to oppose it, while state Sen. Doug Berger and U.S. Rep. Brad Miller have also about-faced on the issue and no longer support it.