The Background of Florida’s Proposed State Guard

By Brandon Leonard

Although no stranger to controversy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposal to bring back the Florida State Guard has come under fire by certain politicians and news outlets. 

Former governor Charlie Crist said DeSantis was attempting to create “his own hand-picked secret police” while senator Annette Taddeo called DeSantis a “wannabe dictator” and likened the proposition to the creation of a “vigilante militia like we’ve seen in Cuba.” 

According to the Florida State Guard Reactivation Group, the Florida State Guard was active between 1941 and 1947 while the Florida National Guard was federalized to serve during World War II. 

The State Guard, at that time, essentially served the same mission as the National Guard. 

The site notes that most State Guards put “their focus on local emergency response, disaster recovery, and critical infrastructure protection.” 

Only in rare instances do State Guards carry weapons, and these usually come in supplementing the tasks of National Guards such as peacekeeping. 

According to William Myers, associate professor of political science at The University of Tampa, the National Guard is an example of cooperative federalism where when [the National Guard] is not federalized, they are under the control of the state governors. 

By contrast, the State Guard would report exclusively to Florida’s governing body without any risk of being taken over by the Department of Defense. 

A federalized national guard can fall victim to the same mismanagement and bureaucratic gridlock that can be seen in past disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. A state guard would be capable of quickly mobilizing and serving as immediate first responders to a natural disaster or other crisis.

The Florida National Guard has also focused far more on federal missions as opposed to state ones, even going so far as to have some units posted all the way in Ukraine due to the ongoing crisis with Russia. 

Florida is not the only state with a State Guard. If DeSantis’ proposal goes through, it would be the 23rd state with an active guard. The proposed size of the guard at 200 members would put it under other guards, such as New York’s, which numbers around 400 but can go up to 800 in certain situations. 

Likewise, Texas and California have guards numbering past 1,000 members—though all three share common missions revolving around the pandemic and local state issues.

Such a force does not come without its costs. According to an article by NBC, Governor DeSantis’ proposition would require $3.5 million to set up the Guard.

Although the ongoing pandemic has affected Florida as much as any other, it is uncertain whether or not a 200-member task force would do little to alleviate the workload of the more than 12,000 members of the Florida National Guard. 

Myers asks a key question for the State Guard, “Are they filling something that there is a requirement for?” 

Photo Courtesy of WINK News

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