MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — Soon, Florida will once again join the current list of more than 20 states with active state guards in place.
Gov. Ron DeSantis had previously indicated his intention to reinstate the Florida State Guard, which had been active from 1941-1947. On Wednesday, the governor traveled to Madeira Beach to announce more specific plans, including the appointment of a retired marine to run the Guard.
Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chris Graham, a native Floridian, will ultimately lead 400 Guard members, who will become part of Florida's response to disasters. Generally speaking, other state defense forces have been used for everything from national disaster recovery to search and rescue operations but can ultimately be an added resource in a defense situation.
"Thank you for your trust and confidence in this position, I think it's a very sensitive position," Graham said. "This is a time where we all face a lot of challenges. I want to do my part, I want to help however I can."
The Florida State Guard, on its website, indicates it is seeking volunteers between the ages of 18-60 to train to "ensure that the Guard is ready to step in when emergency strikes."
DeSantis says the federal government won't have the power to impose policies on the State Guard.
"...[The Florida State Guard] will not be subject to be mobilized by the federal government, and the federal government can not impose policies or penalties on the Florida State Guard," the governor said.
With a budget of $10 million from the legislature, the Florida State Guard will officially be up and running by July 1.
"We're excited about it, we're excited that the legislature provided us this support, and I think it's going to make a big difference," DeSantis said.
More than 1,200 people have already applied to join the State Guard, and the governor reminds others that they can still sign up too. Any working members of the Florida State Guard will be paid.
Floridians with emergency response, law enforcement or military training are encouraged to apply as a member of the FLSG, with ideal candidates demonstrating "experience in military style operations, emergency management, leadership and problem-solving," according to the website.
Anyone interested in learning more about or signing up for the Florida State Guard can click here.
As DeSantis alluded to during Wednesday's news conference in Pinellas County, there has been conversation among critics that the Florida State Guard could operate as his own army.
But as the Brennan Center for Justice notes, state defense forces are not private armies for governors that they can use to "enforce their will free from federal intervention."
"As a functional matter, individual states simply cannot afford to maintain significant military forces without federal funding," the nonprofit explained on its website. "More important, state defense forces exist through the permission of Congress, and a governor who sought to misuse their state’s defense forces could see command of those troops taken away by a president who invoked the Insurrection Act."
U.S. Code authorizes state defense forces, and most states have additional laws that pave the way for them. As the Brennan Center adds, 22 states and Puerto Rico have active state defense forces. Among those states are California and New York.
Watch the full news conference down below.