In the United States, a designated survivor (or designated successor) is an individual in the presidential line of succession, usually a member of the United States Cabinet, who is arranged to be at a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location when the President, the Vice President, and the other officials in the line of succession are gathered at a single location, such as during State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. This is intended to guarantee continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic occurrence that kills the President and many officials in the presidential line of succession, such as a mass shooting, bombing, attack or catastrophic natural disaster. If such an event occurred, killing both the President and Vice President, the surviving official highest in the line, possibly the designated survivor, would become the Acting President of the United States under the Presidential Succession Act.
Only Cabinet members who are eligible to succeed to the presidency (i.e., natural-born citizens over the age of 35, who have resided in the United States for at least 14 years) can be chosen as designated survivors. The designated survivor is provided presidential-level security and transport for the duration of the event. An aide carries a nuclear football with them. However, they are not given a briefing on what to do in the event that the other successors to the presidency are killed.
The practice of naming a designated survivor originated during the Cold War with its risk of nuclear attack. In 1947, the Presidential Succession Act established the line of succession and led to the continuity of government plan. In one special case the Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was designated survivor for the 2010 State of the Union Address given by Barack Obama. At the same time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also absent from the address. However, Secret Service rules prevented Clinton from being named the designated survivor since it was public knowledge that she was at a conference in London during the event. Had a calamity occurred only in Washington and Clinton remained unharmed, she instead of Donovan would have become Acting President, as the Secretary of State is higher in the line of succession than the Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
Since 2005, members of Congress have also been chosen as legislative designated survivors.
In addition to serving as a rump legislature in the event that all of their colleagues were killed, a surviving Representative and Senator could ascend to the (vacated) offices of Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, offices that immediately follow the Vice President in the presidential line of succession. However, it is unclear whether a legislative designated survivor not already holding that house's leadership position could assume such a position without previously having been elected to it by a quorum of their respective house.
If such a legislative designated survivor were simultaneously the sitting Speaker or President Pro Tempore – as was the case during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 State of the Union addresses, in which Presidents Pro Tempore Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) were also legislative designated survivors – he or she would become the acting president in the event of the additional deaths of both the president and the vice-president, rather than the presidential designated survivor Cabinet member.
List of some designated survivors
In popular culture
This section does not cite any sources. (April 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- In the 1991 HBO original film By Dawn's Early Light, the US Secretary of the Interior becomes President of the United States following a Soviet nuclear strike on Washington, D.C while on board a Boeing E-4 NEACP aircraft with the callsign "Condor".
- In the TV show The West Wing, the episode "He Shall, from Time to Time..." features President Josiah Bartlet talking to Secretary of Agriculture Roger Tribbey in the Oval Office prior to leaving for his State of the Union address. The choosing of the designated survivors is shown at the start of the episode, generating some discussion about how it works.
- The 2016 TV series Designated Survivor stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who becomes President after a terrorist attack during the State of the Union address kills the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and every individual ahead of him in the line of succession.
- Central Locator System
- Decapitation strike
- National Command Authority
- Operation Looking Glass
- United States presidential line of succession in fiction
Notes and references
- Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act: 3 U.S.C. § 19
- Knoller, Mark (January 30, 2007). "One Night Spent A Heartbeat Away". CBS News.
- Kamen, Al. "Hillary Clinton will be in London for State of the Union". Washington Post. Accessed 3 February 2010.
- "Cabinet Members Who Did Not Attend the State of the Union Address". www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
- 1981, 1989, 1993, 2001, 2009 and 2017 speeches were given by incoming Presidents and not formal "State of the Union" addresses.
- Hershey, Jr., Robert D. (27 January 1988). "State of Union: Bewitched by Pageant". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- "Cabinet members who did not attend the State of the Union Address (since 1984)" (PDF). United States Senate Historical Office.
- 1984: UPI, "Washington Dateline." Jan 25, 1984
- Rachel Weiner (February 12, 2013). "Steven Chu is the State of the Union 'designated survivor'". The Washington Post.
- "Gainesville Sun - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
- 1985: UPI, "Washington News." Feb 6, 1985
- 1986: UPI, "Washington News." Feb 4, 1986
- 1987: UPI, "Washington News." Jan 28, 1987
- 1990: Washington Post, Page C3. Jan 31, 1991
- 1991: Washington Post, Page C3. Jan 31, 1991
- 1996: USA Today, Page A12. Feb 5, 1997
- 1997: Washington Post, "Agriculture's Glickman Draws Doomsday Duty for Address." Page A13. Feb 4, 1997
- 1999: New York Times, "Not Being Invited Was the Honor." Page B2. Jan 21, 1999
- 2000: Washington Post, "The Reliable Source." Page C3. Jan 28, 2000
- 2001: New York Times, "Cabinet's 'Designated Absentee' Stays Away." Page A23. Jan 30, 2002
- 2002: New York Times, "Cabinet's 'Designated Absentee' Stays Away." Page A23. Jan 30, 2002
- 2003: New York Times, "Ashcroft in Secret Spot During Bush Address." Jan 29, 2003
- 2004: AP, "Four to Miss Speech Due to Security." Jan 20, 2004
- For the 2005, 2006, and 2007 State of the Union addresses, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate would have been the highest-ranking survivor.
- 2005: New York Times, "Five Officials Skip State of the Union Address." Feb 2, 2005
- 2006: Philadelphia Inquirer, "A Message of Energy, Strength." Feb 1, 2006.
- 2007: Washington Post, "The Reliable Source." Page C3. Jan 25, 2007.
- 2008: AP, "Interior Secretary Skips Speech," Jan 28, 2008
- 2009: AFP American Edition, "Gates to Sit out Obama Inauguration," January 19, 2009
- Gates To Be Designated Successor On Inauguration Day, CBS News, January 19, 2009.
- Holder Staying Away From Obama's Speech, The Washington Post, February 24, 2009.
- "Energy secretary skips Obama health care address".
- O'Keefe, Ed (25 January 2011). "State of the Union: Ken Salazar to serve as 'designated survivor'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- Associated Press (24 January 2012). "State of the Union: Tom Vilsack to serve as Cabinet's 'designated survivor". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- "Shinseki absent from inaugural". Miami Herald. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.[dead link]
- "Energy Secretary to be Designated Survivor during State of the Union". FOX News. January 28, 2014.
- Miller, Zeke J (28 January 2014). "This Man Will Be Your President If The Worst Happens Happens". Time. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "Obama's 'designated survivor:' Anthony Foxx". USA Today. January 20, 2015.
- Jackson, David (20 January 2015). "O". NationalJournal. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- Shalby, Colleen (12 January 2016). "If #SOTU disaster strikes, Jeh Johnson ... or a Republican would become president". LA Times. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Saenz, Arlette (January 12, 2016). "State of the Union: Jeh Johnson Named Designated Survivor". ABC News.
- Tribune, The Salt Lake. "Sen. Orrin Hatch acting as a designated survivor during inauguration". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- Weaver, Dustin (20 January 2017). "Jeh Johnson is designated survivor for inauguration". TheHill. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
- DeBonis, Mike; Johnson, Jenna (2017-01-24). "Trump to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-03.
- "Philip Rucker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
- "VA Secretary David Shulkin chosen as designated survivor". ABC News.
- Westwood, Sarah. "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue State of the Union 'designated survivor'". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- "Designated Survivor (TV Series 2016-)". IMDb. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- U.S. Senate's list of cabinet members who did not attend the State of the Union Address (since 1984)
- Cabinet Members Who Did Not Attend the State of the Union Address Reagan (1984) – Trump The American Presidency Project [online]. Gerhard Peters (database). Santa Barbara, California: University of California (hosted).