State Defense Forces - authorized militia

By Harry V. Martin and David Caul

Copyright FreeAmerica and Harry V. Martin, 1995

Few Americans are aware of the existance of State Defense Forces. No, they are not units of the National Guard, nor are they reservists. State Defense Forces are a non-paid militia whose primary function is to suppress internal dissent. This type of dissent ranges from distrubances similar to the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict to ending demonstrations like the People's Park protest in Berkeley.

Traditionally, state governments relied on the National Guard in cases of civil unrest. One third of the cost of the Naitonal Guard was paid for by the state, now, with the federalization of the National Guard, only 5 percent of the cost to run the units is charged to the state. In 1956, Federal Law 32 U.S.C., Section 109, was passed by Congress. The law authorized, but did not mandate, each state to establish and maintain a State Defense Force to replace the National Guard. The entire cost of the State Defense Force would be paid for by the individual state. The Federal law prohibited the use of any federal funds to pay State Defense Force volunteers, or their allowances, subsistence, transportation or medical care.

Twenty-one states now have State Defense Forces, while almost every other state is considering their creation. States with State Defense Forces include Alabama, Alaska, California, Indiana, Louisiana, George, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Militias existed in all the states prior to the Civil War, but after that epic event, militias began to vanish. The state militia was last used during World War II The rise of the Naitonal Guard provided a two-fold protection, one for the state in times of emergency, and the second, for the nation in times of war.


With the federalization of the National Guard, more and more states began to turn to the creation of the State Defense Force concept. After the Vietnam War, Congress implemented a Total Force Policy which essentially integrated the National Guard into a national defesne force. The Department of the Army now provides the main source of National Guard training, support and control. The Army elies on the National Guard for a third of its combat divisions, more than half of its infantry battalions, armored cavalry regiments and field artillery battalions, and nearly half of its armored and mechanized infantry battalios and aviation units.

The establishment of the State Defense Forces allows the units to "be used within the jurisdiction concerned, as its chief exectuive (governor) considers necessary, but may not be called, or drafted in the the Armed Forces of the United States".

Virtually ever American knows about the National Guard, but few know about the State Defense Forces. Critics of the State Defense Forces complain that "ultra right wing survialists" are the main volunteers for the State Defense Forces. A law suit filed by the Christic Institute charges that the State Defense Forces are drawn from "weekend Survivalists Training Centers" or ultra right "war game" schools.

Members of the State Defense Forces buy their own uniforms, own their own weapons. They do not receive pay. California has two requirements for its State Military Reserve units, that an applicant must be under the age of 65 and must submit to a fingerprint card. No physicial examination is required. Members of the California unit are required to attend one 8-hour drill each month, and a three-day training session each year. In addtion, each member is expected to perform an additional 100 volunteer hours each year in some unspeicified manner. California supplies one baisc uniform free of charge. Members may resign at any time. Veterans are often given the highest rank they achieved in active or military reserve status, and promitions come easily.