Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to spend more than $100 million to boost support for the Florida National Guard and to re-establish the Florida State Guard to train civilian volunteers to respond to hurricanes and other state emergencies.
The funding reflects Florida’s commitment to the National Guard, active military, their families, and veterans, he said.
“We’re proud to be the most military-friendly state in the nation,” DeSantis said during a press conference at the Pensacola Armory on Dec. 2. “We’re supportive of our (military) installations, our active duty (members), our veterans, our National Guard, and everyone across the board.”
Specifically, the budget proposal sets aside $87.5 million to expand the readiness center in Miramar, and to build three new armories in Homestead, Gainesville, and Malabar.
Another $8.9 million is earmarked for maintenance at existing armories, and $2.2 million would fund the development of a new headquarters for the National Guard Counter Drug program. Via that program, the Florida National Guard works with law enforcement agencies to stem the flow of illegal drugs in the state.
Under the plan, more than $5 million would be used to support National Guard members who seek higher education, and $3.5 million would re-establish the Florida State Guard. That funding would support training and equipment for 200 State Guard members who would respond to hurricanes, natural disasters, and other emergency situations across the state.
“Reestablishing the Florida state guard will allow civilians from all over the state to be trained in best emergency response techniques and have the ability to mobilize very very quickly,” DeSantis said.
The Florida State Guard was established after the Florida National Guard was called into active military service by the Federal government during World War II. Originally established as the Florida Defense Force in early 1941, the name was changed to the Florida State Guard in 1943. More than 11,000 Florida men served in the Florida State Guard between 1941 and 1947.
If funded, the re-established Florida State Guard would be among 20 such teams recognized across the U.S.
The funding commitment for the National Guard is necessary to allow Florida to respond to any emergency situation in the state.
“We want to make sure that we have the flexibility and the ability to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible, and that will (allow) us to be able to have access support in ways that are not encumbered by the federal government,” DeSantis said.
In addition to the National Guard set aside, DeSantis’ proposal would designate $12.2 million in scholarships for children and spouses of disabled or deceased military veterans, and another $3.6 million dollars to improve infrastructure at the military bases located in the state.
Currently, there are 20 military installations throughout Florida that have a $100 billion annual economic impact on the state and support about a million jobs here.
“As somebody who is a veteran I really appreciate what everyone who wears a uniform does in Florida, and the National Guard carries a heavy load,” DeSantis said. “Florida is probably the number one destination for veterans, and I think we’re going to continue doing that moving forward.”