Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced a budget proposal on Thursday that includes plans to establish a militia that would answer solely to him.
Unlike the Florida National Guard, the Florida State Guard wouldn’t receive federal funding or embark on federal missions.
DeSantis wants to use $3.5 million of the $100 million budget proposal to fund the state guard he said will “not be encumbered to the federal government.”
The guard, made up of up to 200 volunteers, would support the Florida National Guard during state emergencies, the proposal says.
“The $3.5 million to establish the Florida State Guard will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques. By establishing the Florida State Guard, Florida will become the 23rd state with a state guard recognized by the federal government.”
DeSantis’ proposal isn’t completely outside of the norm. There are 22 states who currently have defense forces independent from the National Guard.
However, DeSantis’ track record, including violently quelling protesters has some Democrats sounding the alarm over the governor’s plan.
“No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police,” said Rep. Charlie Crist, who represents Florida’s 13th District in Congress.
Crist, who previously served one term governor after being elected to the office in 2006, is running against DeSantis in the 2022 gubernatorial race.
“Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL,” tweeted fellow Democratic guberbnatorial candidate and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“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,” she said.
“DeSantis is making moves to advance his own reign of terror. We’ve seen this type of militia before in Syria & Iraq,” tweeted Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross.
The original Florida State Guard was established in 1941 to replace members of the National Guard who were serving overseas during World War II. It was disbanded in 1947 as states dropped those adjunct military groups after the war ended. In the 1980s many states revived state guard forces.
The largest chunk of DeSantis’ $100 million military budget proposal, $87.5 million, will fund the expansion of a readiness center in Miramar and establish three new armories in Homestead, Gainesville and Malabar.
The proposal also includes plans to fund armory maintenance, establish a new headquarters for the National Guard Counter Drug Program and support members of the state National Guard who are seeking college degrees.
“Florida is one of the most veteran friendly states and I think there are very few places that you would rather be on duty than in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
“In Florida, we are going to continue our momentum of supporting our military, supporting our veterans and being good stewards of our military installations.”
More news from our partners: