Florida Defense Alliance Can't Get Any Face Time With DeSantis, Causing Friction During Call

Sep 12, 2019

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks with reporters Monday, September 9, 2019 at Florida State University.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Some board members of the Florida Defense Alliance are irked they can’t get any face time with Governor Ron DeSantis. The issue came to a head during a Thursday conference call held by the group.

The Defense Alliance is a state-created consortium of defense organization representatives, housed under Enterprise Florida. But some of the Alliance board members are peeved because, after the better part of a year in office, they haven’t met with the governor in person.

Executive board member Jim Breitenfield made his frustrations known.

“Have we had a chance to even brief the governor yet? It’s been what, 8 months since he’s been in office? Not third-assistant deputy, not Tuesday and Wednesday staffers, but ... have we had a chance to brief the Governor on what the issues are, face-to-face? Because if we don’t do that, we’re not going to get anywhere,” Breitenfeld said.

Ray Collins, who heads the Florida Defense Support Task Force, a council also housed under Enterprise Florida, also was on the call. Collins suggested DeSantis may not have made time for the Defense Alliance yet because he’s relatively new to the job.

“We are working on that,” Collins said. “We keep calling the governor’s scheduling people and so far we haven’t broken through. It may be a combination of the fact that Governor DeSantis is … still working through some issues of how to be a chief executive for the first time. There’s still things happening slower than they should."

But Breitenfield, who said he’s “too old” to stay quiet about the matter, told Collins he doesn’t accept that excuse.   

“Ray … that makes absolutely no sense to me at all,” Breitenfield said with detectable frustration. “The second or third largest economic sector in the state, 700,000 jobs — the man (DeSantis) is former military – I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. There’s something else at work here, I don’t know what it is. It’s just not doing Florida any good.”

Defense Alliance chair Kellie Jo Kilberg told WFSU after the call that the group hopes to have an all-encompassing briefing with DeSantis – “the opportunity to get him the complete story of how our Florida military complex is a unique, key asset in the national defense strategy.”

DeSantis’ office did not respond to WFSU’s request for comment Thursday.

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