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DeSantis moves to triple State Guard size, increase budget 10x

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)
February 23, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving to more than triple the size of the newly revived Florida State Guard and upgrade its equipment, multiplying expenses for the National Guard-like force by nearly ten times.

The state guard was reactivated last summer after being dormant since 1947. First created in 1941 to replace Florida National Guard members deployed to World War II, the state guard’s website now describes it as a volunteer force to help other agencies respond to “natural disasters or man-made emergencies.”

Under DeSantis’ next proposed budget, the guard’s roster of 400 members would grow to 1,500, CBS News reported. The guard’s $10 million budget would swell to more than $98 million, according to a budget proposal overview.

New funds would be used to add $53 million in aviation and maritime equipment, storage facilities worth $22 million, and $19 million worth of training and protective equipment, CBS reported. 

READ MORE: DeSantis activates Nat’l Guard over migrants arriving in Florida Keys

A DeSantis spokesperson said the state guard is still “gearing up and training” and has not yet been deployed anywhere, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The current goal is for the state guard to be fully operational by July 1, which is the start of Florida’s next fiscal year, said DeSantis’ director of policy and budget, Chris Spencer.

So-called state defense forces like the Florida State Guard are military units commanded by governors that, unlike a state’s National Guard, cannot be federally activated into the U.S. military. State defense forces are also active in 22 other states, including California, New York and Texas, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

READ MORE: Gov. DeSantis rejects Biden request to deploy FL Nat’l Guard troops to D.C.

The Florida State Guard was partially created to ease the burden of the Florida National Guard, whose state has the second-worst ratio in the country of Guard personnel to total population, according to a letter written by Florida’s congressional delegation last year.

DeSantis’ new budget, nicknamed the “Framework for Freedom,” also introduces several incentives for enlisting in the Florida National Guard, according to a press release. It includes a program for higher education, a one-time $1,000 bonus for contract renewal, and bonuses for new recruit referrals.