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DeSantis Calls for a New Florida Military Force He Would Control

Governor DeSantis is working to reestablish a Military Force not seen in Florida since the 1940’s. 

The Florida governor wants to reestablish a World War II-era civilian military force that he, not the Federal Government or Pentagon, would control.

DeSantis shared the idea Dec. 2 as a manner of support to the Florida National Guard during major emergencies, like hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has played an ongoing role during the pandemic, focusing on administering COVID-19 tests and vaccines, a move often met with some level of controversy.

This idea is announced amidst a growing tension between the Republican-led state and the current Biden administration over the use of the National Guard. DeSantis said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would not be inhibited by the federal government. He went on to say that this force would give him the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible. 

DeSantis proposed bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians. He is additionally seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in funding to train and equip them.

This action comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s directive warning that National Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will have their pay withheld and be barred from training. 

Democrats in DeSantis’ state expressed concern regarding DeSantis’ announcement. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat to challenge the governor in 2022, tweeted, “No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police.”

State Sen. Annette Taddeo wrote on Twitter that DeSantis was a “wannabe dictator trying to make his move for his own vigilante militia like we’ve seen in Cuba.”

The Florida State Guard was initially created in 1941 during World War II as a temporary force to fill the void when the Florida National Guard was deployed to assist in the U.S. combat efforts. It was disbanded after the war ended, but the authority for a governor to establish a state defense force has remained since that time.

All U.S. States have the power to create defense forces separate from the national guard, though not all of them use it. If Florida moves ahead with DeSantis’ plan to reestablish the civilian force, it would be the 23rd state to do so in the country, joining the ranks of California, Texas and New York.

“Reestablishing the Florida State Guard will allow civilians from all over the state to be trained in the best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very, very quickly,” DeSantis said.

State defense guards are little-known auxiliary forces with origins dating back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.

State guards are typically deployed to respond during a disaster, though governors have found other reasons to call them into action.

Florida law authorizes the governor to maintain a defense force as “necessary to assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order,” 

This announcement came during a broader rollout of DeSantis’ plan to bolster Florida’s National Guard, which included $100 million in funding proposals to establish three new armories, build a new headquarters for the National Guard Counter Drug Program and provide support for Florida National Guardsmen seeking higher-education degrees.

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