OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has re-established the Florida State Guard, a state-controlled private military force.
The Florida State Guard, which existed during the World War II era, would not be controlled by the Pentagon and would be a separate, non-federal entity.
“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the reestablishment of the Florida State Guard and introduced the new director of this emergency-focused civilian volunteer force, retired Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Graham. By bringing back the Florida State Guard, Florida now joins 22 other states and territories with state-level defense forces, and many other states have laws on the books allowing for the activation of these organizations. Florida will add 400 members of the Florida State Guard to respond to a projected active hurricane season, and more than 1,200 individuals have already expressed interest in joining. To learn more about this opportunity to serve your fellow Floridians under the direction of Florida’s elected officials,” DeSantis’ office said in a press release.
“The U.S. military has been kicking out great service members over the Biden administration’s unacceptable COVID vaccine mandate, and they are even targeting members of the National Guard. The bureaucrats in D.C. who control our National Guard have also refused to increase the number of guardsmen despite our increasing population, leaving Florida with the second worst National Guardsman to resident ratio. By reestablishing the Florida State Guard under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Graham, we have a great opportunity to expand our capability to help people in times of need or disaster,” DeSantis said.
“Two months ago I retired from the Marine Corps. as a Lieutenant Colonel after two decades plus of service, and once I saw the opening to become the Director of the State Guard, I decided that two months of retirement was all I needed,” said Director of the Florida State Guard Chris Graham. “This is an unbelievable privilege to reestablish and build from the ground up a modern state defense force. Florida will be joining 22 other states and territories with state guards, but we have an opportunity to break new ground and deliver a 10-fold investment for Floridians.”
The press release added:
Florida has one of the most understaffed National Guards in the nation. Out of 54 states and territories, the Florida National Guard has the second worst resident to guardsman ratio. The federal government has steadfastly refused to grant Florida the authority to support a larger National Guard, even after the National Guard Bureau completed a “force structure rebalance” last year.
Since 1958, the Florida National Guard has had 12,000 troops. At that time, Florida had fewer than 5 million people and the civilian to guard ratio was 375 residents for every guardsman. Today, Florida’s population is nearly 22 million people and the resident to guardsman ratio has climbed to approximately 1,750 Floridians to every one guardsman. In a natural disaster-prone state such as Florida with a potentially active hurricane season on the horizon, there is a clear and present need for a larger civilian emergency response force.
Democrats immediately railed against the idea.
State Sen. Annette Taddeo tweeted that DeSantis was a “wannabe dictator.”
“Wannabe dictator trying to make his move for his own vigilante militia like we’ve seen in Cuba. Florida is not and will never be Ronnie’s regime,” she said.
“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat who is challenging DeSantis for governor, said.
“Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, another Democrat running for governor, said. “Millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under regimes like this — and came to our state to escape them. This must be stopped.”
DeSantis reminded critics that the civilian force would be used to aid in emergencies, adding that they will be “trained in the best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very, very quickly.”
And DeSantis would not be the first to create such a guard. Florida would actually become the 23rd to have one.