On December 2 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he was proposing allotting 3.5 million dollars to reestablish the Florida State Guard, a 200 man volunteer militia controlled by the State alone. He pitched the idea as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies. The notable difference between a State Guard and a National Guard is that the State Guard would be solely under the control of the Governor while the National Guard is under dual control of the Governor and the Federal Government which can “federalize” Guard troops and incorporate them into the regular army. The Federal Government has been increasingly using Guard troops as part of the regular army. Currently around 40 percent of the regular U.S. Army’s combat capacity are National Guard members.
The Guard’s increasing use as an auxiliary arm of the regular armed forces, under control of the Pentagon, makes them less reliable in being loyal to a State in the case of a conflict between a State and the Federal government. This could occur in situations like a State not acquiescing to an unlawful Federal mandate which the Federal Government might try to impose by force, increasingly likely in this age of Covid related and other Federal Government mandates.
State Guards have a long history in our country and 22 states today have state defense forces of one kind or another solely under a governor’s control. Probably the most famous State Guard in history was the Missouri State Guard formed on May 11, 1861 by the General Assembly of Missouri in response to the “Camp Jackson massacre”, where Federal troops fired into some St. Louis secessionists that were protesting and killed 28 people. Several days of rioting followed and ended only after martial law was imposed. The Missouri State Guard was formed to resist a feared Federal invasion of the state while it was considering secession. While never a formal part of the Confederate Army the State Guard fought along side it and generally performed very well in battle.
This formation of the Florida State Guard is a wise move by Governor DeSantis in a time where the Federal Government, in some instances, is threatening to assert authority it does not have under the Constitution. It would be wise to establish more than 200 troops, but it is a start. More States should form these State Guards to have a body of troops available that will be loyal to a state rather than the Pentagon.