DeSantis pitched the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, such as hurricanes. The Florida National Guard also played a critical role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.
But in a nod to the growing tension between the Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said that this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would “not be encumbered by the federal government.” He said this force would give him “the flexibility and capacity to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” DeSantis offers to bring him back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he’s asking the state legislature for $ 3.5 million in start-up costs to train and equip them.
States have the power to create defense forces separate from the National Guard, although not all use it. If Florida implements DeSantis ‘plan to restore civilian force, it would become the nation’s 23rd active state guard, DeSantis’ office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. . These guards are little-known auxiliary forces whose origins date back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While the states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.
Florida Democrats immediately expressed concern over DeSantis’ announcement. U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat to challenge the governor in 2022, tweeted: “No governor should have their own handpicked secret police.”
State Senator Annette Taddeo, another candidate for governor, wrote on Twitter that DeSantis was a “budding dictator trying to make his way for his own self-defense militia as we saw in Cuba” .
The Florida State Guard was established in 1941 during World War II as a temporary force to fill the void left when the Florida National Guard was deployed to aid in United States combat efforts. It was dissolved after the end of the war, but the power of a governor to establish a state defense force remained.
âThe reestablishment of the Florida State Guard will allow civilians across the state to be trained in the best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very, very quickly,â DeSantis said during a visit to Pensacola on Thursday.
State guards are typically deployed to respond to a disaster, although governors have found other reasons to call them to action.
In 2015, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott used the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military exercises in his state, responding to what at the time was a rapidly growing conspiracy theory that the federal government was using Walmart parking lots to prepare for a future state. of martial law. Abbott said the guards were only collecting information to keep Texans safe during the multi-week drills.
Florida law allows the governor to maintain a defense force “necessary to help civil authorities maintain public order,” meaning DeSantis would have another force to respond to any unrest that may erupt in the future. DeSantis quickly deployed the Florida National Guard to major cities after protests and violence erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.
DeSantis also stationed Florida National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border and dispatched them to Washington, DC, to help protect the United States Capitol during the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Thursday’s announcement came amid a larger rollout of DeSantis’ plan to strengthen the Florida National Guard, which included $ 100 million in funding proposals to establish three new armories, build a new headquarters for the program. National Guard Drug Enforcement Department and provide support to Florida National Guardsmen. looking for higher education diplomas.