TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- More than 1,700 Florida National Guard troops are ready to help protect the Tampa area when the Republican National Convention comes to town in a week-and-a-half.
On Thursday, a panel of state lawmakers authorized $2.3 million of federal cash for the Florida Department of Military Affairs. That money pays for the equipment and training that National Guard troops will use for security efforts during the convention.
Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin of the Department of Military Affairs says the National Guard will deploy specialized teams around the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including a hazardous materials team that will check for chemical contamination.
"You really won't see us on the street or anything like that. We have specialized teams that go in and make sure everything is clean to begin with. We're talking about teams that check for any kind of chemical problem or anything like that."
The U.S. Secret Service, FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are leading security efforts, but Sutphin says the National Guard will contribute soldiers and equipment to the mission.
"We have Blackhawks that are already in the state and close to that operation, more cost effective. They have to pay for the fuel, the crews and everything like that. You have some security missions. Certainly since 9-11, everybody's more concerned about securing federal issues like that, so federal buildings and things like that. The Guard will be there to secure that."
Sutphin says Congress set aside $50 million for both the Republican and Democratic conventions to help offset extra costs for the host cities.
The cash approved Thursday for the Department of Military Affairs comes from that pot of money, so he says the state of Florida won't incur any extra expenses from having the Republican convention here.
Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg says he's glad lawmakers have worked out the finances so National Guard soldiers can contribute to security efforts around the convention.
"They can participate and cooperate with local and federal officials in making sure that we have a safe and seamless convention. The convention is good for the state of Florida. It's good for Tampa Bay and we need to make sure that it's a safe one."
First Coast News