Florida took its first step Tuesday toward recognizing the U.S. Space Force — which already has two major installations in Florida — when a Senate Committee unanimously supported legislation to rewrite state statutes to reflect the change in the nation’s military structure.
The Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security quickly and enthusiastically approved Senate Bill 438, which combs through Florida’s statutes to add references to the Space Force wherever Florida law addresses the military or veterans.
How many references are there?
“I think I stopped counting at 47,” said Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat.
“There were a lot,” said Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, the bill’s sponsor, though he wasn’t sure of the precise count.
The changes have been coming for a while. In late 2019, then-President Donald Trump created the nation’s sixth full branch of the military — adding to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — when he signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The new branch essentially absorbed the Air Force’s Space Wing and related operations, carving it out of the Air Force and setting it up independently under the U.S. Department of the Air Force and in parallel with the Air Force.
Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County became Patrick Space Force Base. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral became Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Air Force service personnel became Guardians.
But not under Florida law, at least not yet.
“SB 438 is kind of an exciting sign of the times,” Burgess said. “We, senators, came across this last year. The committee staff pointed out and I took an immediate interest in helping bring our statutes up to recognize the current number of branches in our military. So we have the United States Space Force.
“This is kind of a monumental thing,” he added.
Merritt Island Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois has the House counterpart, House Bill 465.