Governor Ron DeSantis announced the relaunch of the Florida State Guard (FSG), a civilian volunteer force that will help the Florida National Guard in moments of emergencies like hurricanes, or other natural disasters. However, Florida Agricultural Commissioner and Democratic primary candidates Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist have strongly criticized the measure, with the former comparing the measure with paramilitary forces abroad and the latter calling it a “secret police”.
However, these claims by the Democratic candidates for the governorship are an astonishing misrepresentation of the facts, to say the least. Governor DeSantis is not creating an unprecedented, unregulated, scary paramilitary force, he’s just doing something that is already done by dozens of states and Puerto Rico.
In fact, heavily Democratic states also have similar forces, with California, New York, Oregon, and Connecticut being just some of the states that also have an equivalent of the Florida State Guard in their jurisdictions. If Commissioner Fried and Rep. Crist criticize the creation of the Florida State Guard, then it would be coherent if they did the same with other state militias around the country.
The Florida State Guard is just one among many state defence forces around the country
The practice is so common that the United States Chief National Guard Bureau issued an instruction on how should the National Guard interact with these State Defense Forces. Most recently, the Joints Chiefs of Staff published a report on Homeland Defense in 2018 describing state defense forces as “military units that operate under the sole authority of a state government; they are partially regulated by the NGB (national guards bureau) but are not part of the ARNG (national guard)”, this document enumerates there were 20 active state defense forces at the time the report was written. The press release announcing the creation of the FSG notes that Florida will be the 23rd state with a federally recognized state guard.
The autonomy of state defense forces is also established in Title 32, section 109 of the United States Code, which establishes that “In addition to its National Guard, if any, a State, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, or the Virgin Islands may, as provided by its laws, organize and maintain defense forces.”
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State defense forces even have an association, with 18 state defense forces being part of the State Guard Association of the United States, whose mission is to “advocate for the advancement and support of regulated state military forces established by state governments”.
State defense forces are not scary paramilitary shock troops
Commissioner Fried also suggested that the creation of a Florida State Guard is similar to authoritarian regimes of which “millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under”, an apparent reference to the large Hispanic community in Florida that has fled from communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. However, this is an outrageous comparison, misrepresents the true goal of the FSG, and dismisses the good job other state defense forces have done across the country.
Despite the ominous references made by Commissioner Fried what DeSantis actually announced was a $3.5 million funding for the FSG “will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques.” There is ample precedent for states using their state defense forces in times of emergency, for example, the California State Guard (which also answers only to Gov. Gavin Newsom) activated its Orange County units for an exercise to train for potential emergency situations.
Comparing the creation of a state force that will include about 200 volunteers, will only have a $3.5 million funding, and will train its members in emergency response teams with the doings of paramilitary forces from which hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have fled is not only inaccurate, but it minimizes the damage that paramilitary groups have made to millions of people around the world.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.