As states continue to face large deficits and budget cuts, Arizona has hit on a smart solution.
On Tuesday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed S.B. 1495, a bill enhancing the power of the governor to create a state guard unit. These units, better known as State Defense Forces (SDFs), are today’s modern state militia. Unlike the images of rag-tag groups often associated with the term militia, these are professional forces authorized by the Constitution and under the command of their respective state governors.
Arizona stands to gain a great deal from the invaluable force multipliers they provide at virtually no cost to the states or tax payers. These all-volunteer forces are comprised largely of former military members and other public servants with a vast array of experience. For the most part, these SDF members are unpaid, except in some cases when called to active duty by the governor. They freely give of their own time and money for training, uniforms, and equipment to help provide for the security of their states.
SDFs also possess a wealth of vital local knowledge. Unable to be called to federal service like the National Guard, SDFs are stationed within their states at all times. They have key knowledge of the area and vital relationships within the community that, in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency, can be essential to an organized and orderly recovery and response effort. These first responders have proved themselves time and again, be it their quick and capable response after 9/11 or their answer to the call to action following Hurricane Katrina.
The local militia is an American tradition that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Arizona will truly benefit from putting this pillar of American history—the citizen soldier—to good use, and other states would be wise to follow suit. As states continue to face large deficits and budget cuts, the low-cost, high-value assets of the SDFs cannot be ignored.