DeSantis’ Move to Bolster State Guard Fills Gap for Federal Inaction 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that the state government would provide more than $100 million in funding to support the existing Florida National Guard and to reestablish a Florida State Guard. The governor’s press release explained that the funding “supports vital emergency response services that the National Guard provides,” and includes resources “to establish the Florida State Guard” which “will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques,” making Florida the “23rd state with a state guard recognized by the federal government.

The governor’s decision provoked something of a partisan freak out on social media, with detractors hyperventilating that the organization would be akin to a “statewide paramilitary force” that “only answers to” DeSantis. 

In fact, the governor’s move to allocate funding toward National Guard and State Guard personnel and assets is both prudent and timely, in large part due to the increased inability and unwillingness of the federal government to meet its security obligations to the states. 

Recall that several state governors last year were forced to mobilize their National Guard forces to protect human life and property from a rash of violence and insurrection that spanned hundreds of cities and caused billions of dollars in damage. Yet the federal government has largely refused to investigate those crimes or take steps to prevent future violence. 

This year, states faced even greater concerns for the safety of their citizens due to a growing list of national security failures by the Biden Administration. These include a refusal to secure the border, inability to secure state and local government networks from cyberattack, the suspension of important executive orders meant to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, and continued willful blindness to a variety of terrorist threats.  

These failures are causing state leaders to realize the national security challenges facing local leaders. DeSantis and other elected officials in Florida have been in the lead in taking concrete action. 

While Florida is to be commended for these proactive measures, DeSantis clearly realizes that laws can only be enforced by trusted, competent law enforcement professionals and that the state can only be secured by capable, ready military forces. 

As other states defunded law enforcement agencies and imposed unconstitutional vaccine mandates on their personnel, Florida’s governor responded by offering $5000 bonuses to these civil servants to relocate to the Sunshine State to enforce the law.

As the U.S. Department of Defense imposes an unconstitutional and unlawful vaccine mandate upon its personnel, some states—like Oklahoma—are seeking methods to shelter their personnel from these edicts. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has responded by stripping state governors of the capability of paying their unvaccinated guardsmen with Title 32 funding—the type of federal funding used by governors when employing the National Guard for missions under the governor’s authority. 

If the Pentagon persists in this vein, states such as Florida will have to rely more on state funding (known as state active duty funds, or SAD) to support the important work of the National Guard. Even then, Florida’s National Guard personnel can only do so much and—as in most states—are already stretched very thin. The National Guard responds to a wide variety of real-world crises, ranging from destructive weather to border security and drug enforcement operations.

DeSantis’ reestablishment of a state guard could provide Florida with the nucleus for a local capability to serve and protect its citizens and fill in gaps to bolster the Florida National Guard. This would provide DeSantis and future governors access to a reserve force not subject to questionable federal deployments such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) unnecessary and wasteful “Capitol Security” mission which deeply depleted National Guard financial resources last year. Such a state unit may also serve as repository for some American veteran service members being purged from the ranks of the Defense Department, so that a trove of valuable experience in a wide range of capabilities is not lost, allowing veterans to serve in honorably ways that help their communities and use their valuable skill sets.

Ultimately, DeSantis has consistently proven that he is wide awake to the massive national security failures of the federal government. His most recent allocation of funding to the guard is just the latest in the steps he has taken to fill these gaps. As long as that gap exists, and especially as it widens under the Biden Administration, other governors would be wise to follow his lead.

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About Tommy Waller

Tommy Waller is director of infrastructure security at the Center for Security Policy. Previously, he spent two decades as a U.S. Marine infantry and expeditionary ground reconnaissance officer with deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, and South America.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images