The Missouri National Guard would become its own entity in state government rather than being a part of the Department of Public Safety under a proposal voters will be asked to approve Nov. 8.
Supporters of the proposed amendment to the state constitution, known as Amendment 5, say the measure would put the National Guard more directly under the control of the governor’s office.
The new state department would be known as the Missouri Department of the National Guard.
Its aim would be to “provide for the state militia, uphold the Constitution of the United States, uphold the Constitution of Missouri, protect the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Missourians, and provide other defense and security mechanisms as may be required,” according to language in the bill.
The amendment would directly connect the chain of command from the governor to the National Guard, removing the Department of Public Safety as a middleman, a supporter said.
Republican state Rep. Adam Schnelting of St. Charles, a member of the National Guard since 2020 and sponsor of the bill, said Missouri and Massachusetts are the only two states that have their National Guards under a separate department within state government.
“If the voters approve the amendment, it’ll allow the National Guard, much like her sister states . to have her own department in the state, and it’ll streamline the chain of command,” he said.
“You don’t want, when a natural disaster strikes, you don’t want the National Guard having to answer to multiple layers of bureaucracy – which right now, they do,” he added. “Instead of that happening, the National Guard . will answer directly to the governor.”
The bill faced little opposition among lawmakers, although a handful of residents testified against it during the most recent legislative session.
“The last thing Missouri needs is a state militia,” St. Louis-area resident Laura Burkhardt said in written testimony during a February legislative committee meeting in which the proposal to move the Missouri National Guard was discussed.
“Can we all agree to get back to governing for the people of Missouri?” Burkhardt wrote. “Focus on the needs of everyday Missourians. A state militia is not beneficial and a waste of our resources.”
But Schnelting stressed that the current strategy of placing the National Guard within the public safety department is “an improper chain of command.”
“Because, if you look at all the other states, I mean from a constitutional perspective,” Schnelting said, “your governor is your commander in chief unless, or until, you’re called into federal service.”