Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing reinstating a World War II-era civilian/military force known as the State Guard that would be controlled solely by the Sunshine State’s governor.
The Florida State Guard proposal came as DeSantis discussed his military budget, according to a video posted to Facebook. The force would be made up of 200 civilian volunteers and “trained in the best emergency response techniques” they would employ during natural disasters or other state emergencies, a press release noted. In his budget, DeSantis proposed spending $3.5 million on the new force.
Importantly, the force would be completely independent of federal control.
“We are proud of our veterans and active-duty military members and proud of what our communities do to support them,” DeSantis, himself a former U.S. Naval Reserve officer and Iraq war vet, said.
“Florida is one of the most veteran-friendly states and I think there are very few places that you would rather be on duty than in the state of Florida. As a veteran, I really appreciate what everyone who wears the uniform does in our state and am excited about these proposals – they will go a long way and have a meaningful impact,” he added.
“In Florida, we are going to continue our momentum of supporting our military, supporting our veterans and being good stewards of our military installations.”
The press release added: “The military spending budget for the Florida National Guard supports vital emergency response services that the National Guard provides. The establishment of the Florida State Guard will further support those emergency response efforts in the event of a hurricane, natural disasters and other state emergencies.”
Initially created in 1941, the Florida State Guard filled in for regular National Guard members who were ordered to federal service for World War II. The force was disbanded in 1947, however.
The new unit, DeSantis said, would “not be encumbered by the federal government.” He added that the force would afford him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.”
If the budget is approved, the Florida State Guard will become the 23rd such state-level unit in the country. The budget also established three new Guard armories, a new National Guard Headquarters center, and money to support Guard members acquiring advanced educational degrees.
“The budget proposal also includes $12.2 million in scholarships for children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans, and $3.6 million to improve base infrastructure and support projects that keep our military installations among the best in the nation,” the press release adds.
Rep. Charlie Crist, a former GOP Florida governor running against DeSantis as a Democrat, posted a tweet claiming, falsely, that the State Guard would amount to DeSantis’ “secret police.”
“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” he wrote.
No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police. https://t.co/BWEPhM5rHa
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) December 2, 2021
Gov. DeSantis’ proposal comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all members of the military, including National Guard members, to get a COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their active drill status and pay.