OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed his state’s own, private military force that would be controlled by him.
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, CNN reported.
But in a nod to the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would be “not encumbered by the federal government.” He said this force would give him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” DeSantis is proposing bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he is seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in startup costs to train and equip them.
States have the power to create defense forces separate from the national guard, though not all of them use it. If Florida moves ahead with DeSantis’ plan to reestablish the civilian force, it would become the 23rd active state guard in the country, DeSantis’ office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. These guards are little-known auxiliary forces with origins dating back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.
The proposal from DeSantis comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s directive warning that National Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will have their pay withheld and barred from training. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had requested an exemption for guard members in his state, which Austin denied.
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.
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. https://t.co/e6e4AkfRg7
— Annette Taddeo (She/Her/Ella) (@Annette_Taddeo) December 2, 2021
“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat who is challenging DeSantis for governor, said.
No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police. https://t.co/BWEPhM5rHa
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) December 2, 2021
“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.”
Can't believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn't need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL. 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. https://t.co/JoTgXmKTzc
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) December 2, 2021
But the governor said the civilian force would be used to aid in emergencies.
“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,” the popular governor said.
A spokesperson for the governor, Christina Pushaw, explained that DeSantis has the legal authority to create the force.
“Under Florida law, ‘the Governor is hereby authorized to organize and maintain…such military forces as the Governor may deem necessary to assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order,’” she said.
Under Florida law, "the Governor is hereby authorized to organize and maintain…such military forces as the Governor may deem necessary to assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order." #FloridaStateGuard 🐊 https://t.co/eNGbz5aokU
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 (@ChristinaPushaw) December 2, 2021
And DeSantis would not be the first to create such a guard. Florida would actually become the 23rd to have one.
It comes after billionaire Ray Dalio, a hedge fund manager, predicted in a new book titled,“Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail,” that there was a 30 percent chance of a civil war in the next decade.
“For example, when close elections are adjudicated and the losers respect the decisions, it is clear that the order is respected,” the billionaire said.
“When power is fought over and grabbed, that clearly signals the significant risk of a revolutionary change with all its attendant disorder,” he said.