Florida’s newly proposed $96.5 billion budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 carves out significant provisions to address the declining state of military infrastructure and equipment.
The “Florida Leads”budget will allocate over $68.8 million to fund the Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Military Affairs. Within the budget, $24.4 million will provide assistance for both military presence and families.
FNG Adjutant Gen. James Eifert expressed to lawmakers that some armories are between 50 and 100 years old.
Gov. DeSantis has made emergency preparedness and response a key component of the proposal. $7.2 million is allocated for maintenance, armory repairs and construction with an additional $2 million for security enhancements.
The Army Reserve Office and Republican Sen. Danny Burgess described the status of outdated armories as “critical.”
Compared to last year’s budget, the FNG received an increase of $2.9 million in maintenance and repair funding under the capital improvement plan.
DeSantis’s focus on FNG investments follows the activation of its troops for COVID-19 response operations and security at the U.S. Capitol during January’s protests.
“These brave men and women continually support our state and nation, and these investments will not only recognize their selfless work but will also help ensure Florida remains the most military-friendly state in the nation,” DeSantis said.
While financial gains were made for military operations and logistics, higher education programs and scholarships experienced cuts.
Budgetary constraints are a direct result of a projected $2.1 billion shortfall due to the ongoing pandemic. Economists note that the shortfall is dependent upon how the state recovers by July.
“We know the revenue is going to come in over projections now for these next many months,” DeSantis said.
The current proposal provides $3.1 million in tuition assistance for FNG members pursuing higher education degrees – a $1.1 million decrease from the 2020 budget.
Comparatively, the $8.4 million in scholarships for children and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans remains unchanged from the previous year.
Education benefits are considered to be the primary recruitment and retention measure for the FNG. The reduction in tuition assistance has significant implications for the recruitment process and guardsmen currently pursuing degrees.
“When you make that promise and they’re entering schools and paying their bills and then you say you don’t have that money anymore, it’s really a letdown,” Eifert said to Florida Politics.
The reprioritization of funds and shortfall has resulted in a $3.75 million decrease in the overall military affairs budget.
Despite criticism toward the current budget cuts, military officials remain optimistic about the restoration of infrastructure and armories.
“The state’s commitment to ensuring our guardsmen have secure and well-maintained facilities to train will ensure that they are able to continue to take care of the citizens of this great state,” Eifert said.
Underscoring the need for renovations to the FDMA and FNG military presence is seen as the next step in enhancing statewide security operations.
It won’t be until July that the effects of the budgetary shortfall will be truly realized. However, the government estimates that increased revenue over the next few months will fill in the multibillion dollar gap.
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Florida National Guard troops. Unmodified phot by Mudangel used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3oN1ME8)