DeSantis presented the idea Thursday as a way to give more support to the Florida National Guard during emergencies, such as hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.
But in a look at the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said that this unit, called the Florida State Guard, “would not be recorded by the federal government. “. He said that strength would give him “the flexibility and ability to respond to the events of our state as effectively as possible.” DeSantis is proposing to return him with a volunteer force of 200 civilians and is 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 goes ahead with DeSantis ’plan to restore civilian force, it would become the country’s 23rd active state guard, the DeSantis office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. These guards are little known auxiliary forces with an origin dating back to the arrival of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are only in the hands of one governor.
DeSantis’ proposal comes after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s directive warns that members of the National Guard who refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus will be withheld and banned from training. . Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had asked for an exemption for members of the guard in his state, which Austin denied.
Florida Democrats immediately sounded the alarm over DeSantis’ announcement. U.S. Rep. Charlie Christ, who is running as a Democrat to challenge the governor in 2022, tweeted: “No governor should have his own secret police chosen by hand.”
State Senator Annette Taddeo, another gubernatorial candidate, wrote on Twitter that DeSantis was an “aspiring dictator trying to make his way through his own vigilante militia as we have seen in Cuba.”
The Florida State Guard was established in 1941 during World War II as a temporary force to fill the gap left behind when the Florida National Guard was deployed to assist in U.S. combat efforts. It was disbanded after the end of the war, but the authority of a governor to establish a state defense force was maintained.
“The re-establishment 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,” DeSantis said during a visit to Pensacola on Thursday.
State guards often deploy to respond during a disaster, although governors have found other reasons to put them into action.
In 2015, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott used the Texas State Guard to oversee federal military exercises in his state, in response to what was then a fast-growing conspiracy theory that the federal government was using in the parking lots. of Walmart to prepare for a future state. of martial law. Abbott said guards were only gathering information to keep jeans safe for several weeks of exercise.
Florida law allows the governor to maintain a defense force as “necessary to assist civilian authorities in maintaining law and order,” meaning DeSantis would have another force to respond to riots that may erupt in the United States. future. DeSantis quickly deployed the Florida National Guard to major cities after protests and violence erupted in response to the assassination of George Floyd in Minnesota.
DeSantis has also stationed Florida National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border and sent them to Washington, DC, to help protect the U.S. Capitol during President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Thursday’s announcement came as part of a broader deployment of DeSantis’ plan to bolster the Florida National Guard, which included $ 100 million in funding proposals to establish three new armories, build a new headquarters for the Anti-Drug Program. the National Guard and support the Florida National Guard. looking for higher education degrees