Pensacola, FL – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced that he wanted to put $100 million into the military in his state, including $3.5 million to relaunch the Florida State Guard.
DeSantis took the stage lined by Florida National Guardsman in Escambia County on Dec. 2 and outlined his proposed initiative, according to The Hill.
“We are proud of our veterans and active-duty military members and proud of what our communities do to support them,” DeSantis 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. 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 governor promised.
He said the state guard would not be “encumbered by the federal government” like the National Guard, according to CNN.
The Florida State Guard was created by legislation in 1941 to fill the gap left during World War II when many National Guard members were deployed overseas, The Hill reported.
The guard was disbanded in 1947 but the authority remained for the governor to establish a state defense force, CNN reported.
The law authorizes DeSantis to create a defense force as “necessary to assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order.”
Critics said that meant the governor would have yet another force to help crack down on protesters the next time civil unrest erupted in the state, according to CNN.
If the Florida State Guard is re-established, it will make Florida the 23rd active state guard in the United States, according to The Hill.
DeSantis said the Florida State Guard will provide additional support to emergency response efforts when the state suffered a hurricane or other natural disaster, as well as assisting with other state emergencies.
He said the $3.5 million that will go to the state guard would provide for civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The relaunch of the state guard was part of a larger military budget proposal DeSantis made.
He has also proposed the establishment of three new armories in Homestead, Gainesville, and Malabar, a new National Guard Headquarters, and support for service members studying to get a degree, The Hill reported.
The highest-ranking member of the Florida National Guard was on hand for the announcement and praised the governor’s initiative.
“Gov. DeSantis’ budget this year is yet another example of his deep commitment to our Soldiers, Airmen, and residents of our state,” Florida National Guard Major General James Eifert, Adjutant General of Florida, said.
“These investments will help us maintain our readiness, enabling us to continue to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. We simply cannot thank the governor enough for his ongoing leadership and dedication to our Guardsmen, and we look forward to proudly continuing our 456-year legacy of service to this great state,” Eifert said.
Florida @GovRonDeSantis wants to resurrect the Florida State Guard, a paramilitary force disbanded in 1947.
Unlike the @FLGuard, the FSG will answer solely to the Governor. No federal deployments. No federal missions. No federal dollars.
— Jason Delgado (@byJasonDelgado) December 2, 2021
The proposal to relaunch the Florida State Guard was met with pushback from Democratic lawmakers, The Hill reported.
U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-Florida), who is running against DeSantis in 2022, called the Florida State Guard a “handpicked secret police.”
Another gubernatorial challenger, Democratic Florida State Senator Annette Taddeo, called her opponent a “wannabe dictator trying to make his move for his own vigilante militia like we’ve seen in Cuba,” CNN reported.