Floridians have depended heavily on the brave volunteers of our National Guard over the years and we owe them a great debt of gratitude. We call on these men and women when disaster strikes. Historically, that has primarily been in response to hurricanes and other natural disasters. In the last few years, they have helped lead us in the fight against COVID-19, as they were called up time and again to serve.
Now, they need our help. The National Guard needs proper troop numbers based on the size of our state and propensity for natural disasters. We simply don’t have enough of them and are overworking these citizen soldiers because of it.
The Florida National Guard has deployed 25,000 soldiers since 9/11/01 (Federal activations) and has responded to the fifth most FEMA declared disasters of all states in the past 70 years (State activations). In just the past year and a half, due to COVID-19, the Florida National Guard has logged the same number of operating hours as they had over the last 20 years. The Florida National Guard has been meeting its mission goals with just over 12,000 troops. However, this has meant several activations for the same soldiers again and again. Ultimately leading to burnout, retention, and readiness issues.
Florida has roughly 21 million residents and 12,000 Guardsmen. That equates to one Guardsman for every 1,833 citizens. In contrast, the State of Alabama has the same number of allotted Guardsman (12,000) but only approximately 4.9 million residents. That equates to one Guardsman for every 408 citizens. To put it simply — Florida has about 22% of the number of National Guard troops per capita as Alabama.
I’ll be working with my colleagues in the Florida Legislature, as well as Florida’s Congressional Delegation, to urge the U.S. National Guard Bureau to increase the force structure allocation — for the good of Florida and the good of our nation. We need a larger National Guard in Florida.
The Florida National Guard, like other states’ National Guards, is a component of the U.S. military uniquely empowered to respond to both domestic crises and overseas conflicts. Known as “Citizen Soldiers,” Guardsmen are not active-duty military and generally fall under the command of the Governor of Florida as their commander in chief. Guardsmen can also be activated for Federal service by the President of the United States when necessary.
The number of soldiers and airmen that a state National Guard is permitted to have is called force structure and is set and allocated by the National Guard Bureau in Washington, DC. Even though Florida is the third most populous state, we rank 53rd out of the 54 (all states and territories with a Guard component) in the Guardsmen-to-Citizen ratio. So essentially, Florida has a minimal Guard compared to our large population. Given the number of activations, size of our state, and propensity for natural disasters, the Florida National Guard must be permitted to increase its force structure allocation.
Therefore, on behalf of my colleagues in the Florida Legislature and Florida’s congressional delegation, we are respectfully asking that the National Guard Bureau examine the current resource allocations and work with us to grow the size of Guard in our state in order to meet demand and end the pattern of overworking these courageous citizens who sacrifice to serve and protect the rest of us.
Rep. Dan Daley serves for Florida House District 97 (Coral Springs, Tamarac, Sunrise, Plantation, and the Florida Everglades).