What to know about the president's 'designated survivor'

On Tuesday, most of the nation's political elite -- from Vice President Mike Pence to House Speaker Paul Ryan -- will file into the Property chamber to hear President Trump outline his national agenda. But 1 member of the administration absolutely will not...

What to know about the president's 'designated survivor'

On Tuesday, most of the nation's political elite -- from Vice President Mike Pence to House Speaker Paul Ryan -- will file into the Property chamber to hear President Trump outline his national agenda. But 1 member of the administration absolutely will not...

27 February 2017 Monday 08:00
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What to know about the president's 'designated survivor'

On Tuesday, most of the nation's political elite -- from Vice President Mike Pence to House Speaker Paul Ryan -- will file into the Property chamber to hear President Trump outline his national agenda. But 1 member of the administration absolutely will not be watching in individual.

In the course of significant presidential addresses, the administration isolates 1 cabinet-level official in an undisclosed location. That individual takes control if a disaster were to wipe out all those in the presidential line of succession.

Typically selected by the president's chief-of-employees, the identity of the so-called "designated survivor" is kept secret until shortly before the occasion.

If the president dies or is removed from office, he's succeeded by the vice president, followed by the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate, at present Utah Republican Orrin Hatch. According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the president pro tempore is followed, in order, by the secretaries of state, treasury, and defense, the lawyer general, and the secretaries of the interior, agriculture, commerce, labor, wellness and human services, housing and urban development, transportation, power, education, veterans affairs and homeland safety.

According to historians, the practice dates back to the 1960s, when the nation, rocked by the Cold War, started fearing a nuclear attack. It was not till the 1980s, nevertheless, that the survivors' identities became matter of public record.

Prior to the attacks on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, the designated survivor had a comparatively relaxed evening. One survivor recalled spending the evening with his daughter, even though yet another hosted a pizza party in the White House.

But post-9/11, safety was beefed up: the designated survivor now undergoes hours of briefings and even practices disaster scenarios. Shortly ahead of the president's speech, the designated survivor is whisked out of the nation's capital, accompanied by presidential-level safety and a military aide carrying the "football," a briefcase that houses the nuclear launch codes.

Through President Trump's inauguration in January, then-President Obama's secretary of homeland safety, Jeh Johnson, served as the designated survivor.

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