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Documenting the Ranks of Neighborhood Heroes

The October 11, 2010 issue of Time "Locked and Loaded: The Secret World of Extreme Militias," took a controversial look at the world of private militias. What the article never mentioned is the not-so-secret world of militias out there called State Defense Forces (SDFs). These SDFs are authorized by state law and are under the command of state governors and senior military leaders. Made up entirely of volunteers, these militias are trained, organized, and prepared to back the National Guard in emergency response situations; they played a crucial role in hurricane Katrina, and the 9/11 emergency response.

Twenty-three states and U.S. territories have State Defense Forces (SDFs)--a total force strength of 14,000 members. A recent Heritage Foundation report entitled "The 21st-Century Militia: State Defense Forces and Homeland Security" presents the results of the first attempt by any organization to conduct a comprehensive survey of the nation's SDFs. The Heritage Foundation sent surveys to the leaders of all 23 of the nation's SDFs, and 13 responded. This paper analyzes their responses, looks at the history of the SDFs and the issues and challenges that they face, and makes recommendations on expanding the SDF role in homeland security.

Despite their value, State Defense Forces in many states are underfunded and under-supported. Many key or vulnerable states have not even created SDFs. Judging from more than 50 years of actuarial data on natural disasters, certain states face a predictable, high risk of experiencing a natural disaster. Further, an analysis of funding of cities through the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) program has identified the 37 "highest risk" jurisdictions as indicated by the federal government. Of these high-risk states, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania lack SDFs. States that do not have these capabilities should think seriously about establishing them because, clearly, America isn't prepared for another big disaster.


Comments (1)


Thanks for posting this! I'm a member of the Alaska State Defense Force. We do indeed need support and recognition to better serve our State and indeed the Country by doing so (after all, we serve the same Adjutant General as the National Guard and can provide the State bodies when the National Guard is Federalized and deployed elsewhere!).

Not having any funding however isn't always the biggest problem, as that has been the Militia tradition since the days of old (See the Militia Act of 1796, men were required to equip themselves at their own expense as a matter of duty). More to the point, recognition and being known would be more critical for the State Guard and State Defense Forces that actually serve this nation. Militia should NEVER be applied to the armed mobs who don't serve their State.

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