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The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, he wants to reestablish a WWII-era civilian military force that he, not the Pentagon, would control, according to CNN.
DeSantis unveiled the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, such as hurricanes.
The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the coronavirus pandemic. in the administration of Covid-19 tests and the distribution of vaccines.
But in a nod to the growing tension between the Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said that this unit, called Florida State Guard, “Would not be taxed by the federal government.”
He said this force would give him “the flexibility and capacity to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” DeSantis proposes to train this corps with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and 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, although not all use it.
If Florida goes ahead with DeSantis’s plan to reestablish that civilian force, would become the twenty-third 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 whose origins date back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While the states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely under the power of a governor.
DeSantis’ proposal comes on the heels of a directive from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning that National Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will have payment withheld and training prohibited. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had requested an exemption for guardsmen in his state, which Austin denied.
Democrats in Florida immediately voiced alarm at DeSantis’s announcement. US Representative Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat to challenge the governor in 2022, tweeted: “No governor should have his own handpicked secret police.”
The Florida State Guard was created in 1941 during World War II as a temporary force to fill the void left when the Florida National Guard was deployed to assist in the United States‘ combat efforts. It was dissolved after the war ended, but the authority for a governor to establish a state defense force remained.
“The reestablishment of the Florida State Guard will allow civilians throughout the state to be trained in the best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very, very quickly,” DeSantis said during a visit to Pensacola on Thursday.
State guards are generally deployed to respond during a disaster, although governors have found other reasons to call them to action.
DeSantis has stationed Florida National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border and dispatched them to Washington, DC, to help protect the United States Capitol during the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
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