PENSACOLA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced recommendations for over $223 million in new defense-related funding in the upcoming state budget at a news conference in Pensacola.
DeSantis said the money will go primarily toward bolstering the National Guard, treating the major investment as a form of thanking National Guardsmen for conducting Florida’s disaster recovery and response efforts, as well as assisting in statewide COVID-19 testing and vaccination actions.
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“We appreciate all the effort that’s happened over the last year and a half, it made a huge difference,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also announced his intent to reestablish the Florida State Guard, a WWII-era state defense force that first existed from 1944 to 1947.
“We want to be able to have a quick response capability, and 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. “This is something that many other states have utilized — I think Florida is in the minority of states that has allowed this to go defunct — so we’re happy to be able to bring that back.”
DeSantis said the state-specific emergency funding will support a faster response to hurricanes, natural disasters and other state emergencies without always relying on the federal government for help.
“We also want to make sure that we have the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible, and some of that will require us to be able to have access and be able to use support in ways that are not encumbered by the federal government and don’t require federal government,” DeSantis said.
Major General James O. Eifert, the governor’s senior military adviser and director of the Florida Department of Military Affairs, said National Guardsmen in Florida have worked more days in state response commission in the past two years than they have in the previous 20.
“This year, the governor is committing the most substantial investment in the Florida National Guard facility program in the entire history of the Florida National Guard,” Eifert said. “These investments will help us maintain our readiness and hopefully grow our force, enabling us to continue ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of Florida.”
Here’s a breakdown of the new spending recommended Thursday:
- More than $100 million for the National Guard
- $87.5 million to expand Miramar Readiness Center, build three new armories across Florida
- $8.9 million for maintenance on existing armories
- $2.2 million for the National Guard Counterdrug program
- $5.1 million earmarked to support Florida National Guardsmen seeking higher education to help them support themselves and their families
- $12.2 million in scholarships for the children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans
- $3.6 million to improve base infrastructure in Florida
- $3.5 million to reestablish the Florida State Guard