TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As lawmakers in Tallahassee consider Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal this session, they will be also be deciding whether to approve a steep funding increase establishing Florida’s own branch of the military.
DeSantis announced the revival of the Florida State Guard last June.
The state guard was dismantled at the end of World War II.
“The Florida State Guard will be comprised of Floridians, and it will be assigned to assist and help only Floridians,” DeSantis said in a news conference last June. “It will not be subject to be mobilized by the federal government, and the federal government cannot impose policies or penalties on the Florida State Guard.”
DeSantis claimed the Florida National Guard, which is governed by the federal government and was credited for helping rescue people after hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year, was not providing enough resources to the state.
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News 6 investigated and found the national guard’s own records show they have capped the number of Florida National Guard troops at 12,000 since 1958, which resulted in Florida ranking 53 out of 54 states and territories when it comes to the number of troops per capita.
Major Gen. John Haas, the assistant adjutant general for the Florida National Guard, admitted to the shortcomings during a recent meeting of the Florida Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs.
“We will always be challenged as long as we are an undersized formation,” he told the committee.
Twenty-two other states have supplemented the national guard with their own state guard forces.
In its first year, the legislature approved $10 million to restart the Florida State Guard.
News 6 has uncovered DeSantis now wants to increase that to $98 million this year.
In his budget request to the Florida legislature, he has asked lawmakers to approve $53 million to purchase marine and aviation equipment, $19 million to recruit and train state guard troops, $22 million to build storage facilities and $1.3 million to fund salaries for 10 administrative positions.
The governor is also asking that the number of state guard troops be expanded from 400 to 1,500 positions.
His office claimed more than 1,200 people have applied, so far.
“The purpose of the state guard is to be a force multiplier for our existing emergency response capabilities and a force multiplier for our National Guard,” said Chris Spencer, DeSantis’ director of policy and budget.
His comments came during a question-and-answer session in a recent meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Tallahassee.
“Having this additional resource -- that’s under our control rather than waiting for additional allocations from the federal government -- we feel is very important to increase our readiness for emergencies,” he said.
“We need to support what they are doing here,” State Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, said.
Torres is the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, and he told News 6 he does have some concerns about the revival of the Florida State Guard.
“I don’t want this money for this state guard to go for border security,” he said. “I don’t want to it to be implemented -- where they’re going to use them to go to Texas or the border. We got our own issues here in the state of Florida.”
Florida Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio sent letters to the National Guard Bureau last year asking for a review of the number of troops allocated to Florida.
News 6 contacted the bureau asking if a review was underway or under consideration.
Spokeswoman Nahaku McFadden said the Florida National Guard received 167 new force structure authorizations for a light-medium truck company and 165 new authorizations for a chemical battalion over the last two years.
“National Guard Bureau planners continually discuss force structure needs with all states, territories, and the District of Columbia,” she said. “Force structure requirements depend largely on the needs of the Army and the Air Force and Congressionally mandated end strength and funding with consideration to demographics, supportability, suitability, and the balancing of capabilities across the country. States also have the ability to provide mutual assistance during natural disaster and domestic response through Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMAC).”
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