In the United States, a designated survivor (or designated successor) is a named individual in the presidential line of succession that is planned to take the Office of President of the United States if it becomes entirely dismantled. The designated survivor is usually appointed in preparation for a catastrophic or mass-casualty event. The individual is chosen to stay at an undisclosed secure location, away from events such as State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. The practice of designating a successor is intended to prevent a hypothetical decapitation of the government and to safeguard continuity in the office of the president in the event the president along with the vice president and multiple other officials in the presidential line of succession die. The procedure began in the 1950s during the Cold War with the idea that nuclear attack could kill government officials and the United States government would collapse.

If such an event occurred, the surviving official highest in the line of succession as noted in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, possibly the designated survivor, would become Acting President of the United States. The individual named as a designated survivor must be eligible to serve as president to ensure that the individual is able to provide continuity in government. In practice, the designated survivor is usually a member of the president's Cabinet, and is chosen by the president.

Being assigned as the designated survivor does not guarantee that this official will be the person to assume the presidency in such a situation. For the 2010 State of the Union Address, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was the designated survivor. However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also absent from the address due to a conference in London; had a calamity occurred, Clinton, not Donovan, would have become Acting President as her office is higher in the line of succession.[1]

Congress also designates members of the Senate and House (one from each party) to become their own "designated survivor" to maintain the existence of Congress in the event of a mass-casualty event.[2]

Selection

In a 2016 interview, Jon Favreau, a speechwriter under President Barack Obama, said that the procedure for picking a designated survivor for a State of the Union address was "entirely random", but later clarified that the content of the speech played a role in who was permitted to be absent. As an example, Favreau said that for a State of the Union speech in which Obama's education policy was a major focus, then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was not chosen as the designated survivor, as it was felt that he should attend and represent his department.[3]

List of designated survivors

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (April 2017)
Date Occasion Designee Position Notes
February 18, 1981 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] Terrel Bell Secretary of Education [4]
January 25, 1984 State of the Union Samuel Pierce Secretary of Housing and Urban Development [1][5][6][7]
January 21, 1985 Presidential Inauguration Margaret Heckler Secretary of Health and Human Services [8]
February 6, 1985 State of the Union Malcolm Baldrige Secretary of Commerce [1][5][7][9]
February 4, 1986 State of the Union John Block Secretary of Agriculture [1][5][7][10]
January 27, 1987 State of the Union Richard Lyng Secretary of Agriculture [1][5][7][11]
January 25, 1988 State of the Union Donald Hodel Secretary of the Interior [1][4][5][7]
February 9, 1989 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] Lauro Cavazos Secretary of Education [12]
January 31, 1990 State of the Union Edward J. Derwinski Secretary of Veterans Affairs [1][5][7][13]
January 29, 1991 State of the Union Manuel Lujan Secretary of the Interior [1][5][7][14]
January 28, 1992 State of the Union Ed Madigan Secretary of Agriculture [1][5][7]
February 17, 1993 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] Bruce Babbitt Secretary of the Interior [1][5][7]
January 25, 1994 State of the Union Mike Espy Secretary of Agriculture [1][5][7]
January 24, 1995 State of the Union Federico Peña Secretary of Transportation [1][5][7]
January 23, 1996 State of the Union Donna Shalala Secretary of Health and Human Services [1][5][7][15]
February 4, 1997 State of the Union Dan Glickman Secretary of Agriculture [1][5][7][16]
January 27, 1998 State of the Union William Daley Secretary of Commerce [1][5][7]
January 19, 1999 State of the Union Andrew Cuomo Secretary of Housing and Urban Development [1][5][7][17]
January 27, 2000 State of the Union Bill Richardson Secretary of Energy [1][5][7][18]
February 27, 2001 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] Anthony Principi Secretary of Veterans Affairs [1][5][7]
September 11–14, 2001 Following the September 11 attacks Donald Evans Secretary of Commerce [1][5][7]
September 20, 2001 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress
(following the September 11 attacks)
Dick Cheney Vice President [1][19]
Tommy Thompson Secretary of Health and Human Services
January 29, 2002 State of the Union Gale Norton Secretary of the Interior [5][7][20]
January 28, 2003 State of the Union John Ashcroft Attorney General [1][5][7][21]
Norman Mineta Secretary of Transportation
January 20, 2004 State of the Union Donald Evans Secretary of Commerce [1][5][7][22]
January 20, 2005 Presidential Inauguration Gale Norton Secretary of the Interior [23][24]
February 2, 2005 State of the Union Ted Stevens President pro tempore of the Senate[b] [1][5][7][25]
Donald Evans Secretary of Commerce
January 31, 2006 State of the Union Ted Stevens President pro tempore of the Senate[b] [1][5][7][26]
Jim Nicholson Secretary of Veterans Affairs
January 23, 2007 State of the Union Alberto Gonzales Attorney General[b] [1][5][7][27]
January 28, 2008 State of the Union Dirk Kempthorne Secretary of the Interior [1][5][7][28]
January 20, 2009 Presidential Inauguration Robert Gates Secretary of Defense [29][30]
February 24, 2009 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] Eric Holder Attorney General [1][5][7][31]
September 9, 2009 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress
(Health Care Speech to Congress)
Steven Chu Secretary of Energy [32]
January 27, 2010 State of the Union Hillary Clinton[c] Secretary of State [1][5][7][33]
Shaun Donovan Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
January 25, 2011 State of the Union Ken Salazar Secretary of the Interior [5][7][34]
January 24, 2012 State of the Union Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture [5][7][35]
January 21, 2013 Presidential Inauguration Eric Shinseki Secretary of Veterans Affairs [36]
February 12, 2013 State of the Union Steven Chu Secretary of Energy [7]
January 28, 2014 State of the Union Ernest Moniz Secretary of Energy [37][38]
January 20, 2015 State of the Union Anthony Foxx Secretary of Transportation [39][40]
January 12, 2016 State of the Union Orrin Hatch President pro tempore of the Senate [41]
Jeh Johnson Secretary of Homeland Security [42]
January 20, 2017 Presidential Inauguration Orrin Hatch President pro tempore of the Senate [43]
Jeh Johnson Secretary of Homeland Security [44]
February 28, 2017 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] David Shulkin Secretary of Veterans Affairs [45][46]
January 30, 2018 State of the Union Sonny Perdue Secretary of Agriculture [47]
February 5, 2019 State of the Union Rick Perry Secretary of Energy [48]
February 4, 2020 State of the Union David Bernhardt Secretary of the Interior [49][50]
January 20, 2021 Presidential Inauguration Undisclosed[d] [51]
April 28, 2021 Presidential Address to Joint Session of Congress[a] None[e] [52]
March 1, 2022 State of the Union Gina Raimondo Secretary of Commerce [53]
February 7, 2023 State of the Union Marty Walsh Secretary of Labor [54]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g 1981, 1989, 1993, 2001, 2009, 2017 and 2021 speeches were given by incoming presidents and not formal "State of the Union" addresses.
  2. ^ a b c 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.
  3. ^ While Shaun Donovan was the designated survivor, Hillary Clinton was overseas and was the de facto designated survivor as the most senior person in the line of succession not present.
  4. ^ According to Military.com, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the highest-ranking official in the line of succession who did not attend the inauguration, but it was never officially reported whether he, or anyone else, served as designated survivor.[51]
  5. ^ Due to COVID-19 protocols requiring limited attendance, most of the cabinet was not present for the speech and thus no formal designated survivor was named. United States Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen was the de facto designated survivor as the most senior person in the line of succession not present.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Cabinet Members Who Did Not Attend the State of the Union Address". www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
  2. ^ Siegel, Benjamin (January 13, 2016). "Meet Congress' State of the Union Designated Survivors". ABC News.
  3. ^ Millstein, Seth (February 6, 2019). "How Is The Designated Survivor Chosen? Rick Perry Won't Be At The 2019 SOTU". Bustle. CBS News reports that the president and their staff are responsible for selecting the designated survivor, and Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's former lead speechwriter, spoke to The Ringer about the designated survivor selection process in 2016. Favreau initially said that the process is "entirely random," but then backtracked a bit and said that sometimes, the designated survivor depends on what the president intends to say in their speech.
  4. ^ a b Hershey, Robert D. Jr. (January 27, 1988). "State of Union: Bewitched by Pageant". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 7, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac "Cabinet members who did not attend the State of the Union Address (since 1984)" (PDF). United States Senate Historical Office.
  6. ^ 1984: UPI, "Washington Dateline." January 25, 1984
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Weiner, Rachel (February 12, 2013). "Steven Chu is the State of the Union 'designated survivor'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 21, 2017.
  8. ^ "Gainesville Sun - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ 1985: UPI, "Washington News." February 6, 1985
  10. ^ 1986: UPI, "Washington News." February 4, 1986
  11. ^ 1987: UPI, "Washington News." January 28, 1987
  12. ^ Cillizza, Chris. "The story of a real-life 'Designated Survivor'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  13. ^ 1990: Washington Post, Page C3. January 31, 1991
  14. ^ 1991: Washington Post, Page C3. January 31, 1991
  15. ^ 1996: USA Today, Page A12. February 5, 1997
  16. ^ 1997: Washington Post, "Agriculture's Glickman Draws Doomsday Duty for Address." Page A13. February 4, 1997
  17. ^ Goodnough, Abby; Waldman, Amy; Barron, James (January 21, 1999). "Not Being Invited Was the Honor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on May 27, 2015. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  18. ^ 2000: The Washington Post, "The Reliable Source." Page C3. January 28, 2000
  19. ^ 2001: The New York Times, "Cabinet's 'Designated Absentee' Stays Away." Page A23. January 30, 2002
  20. ^ "THE STATE OF THE UNION; Cabinet's 'Designated Absentee' Stays Away". The New York Times. January 30, 2002. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  21. ^ "STATE OF THE UNION; Ashcroft in Secret Spot During Bush Address". The New York Times. January 29, 2003. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  22. ^ 2004: AP, "Four to Miss Speech Due to Security." January 20, 2004
  23. ^ "Designated survivor prepares for Inauguration Day". KMGH. January 19, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  24. ^ Sacks, Mike (January 19, 2017). "Designated survivor prepares for Inauguration Day". WGBA. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  25. ^ "Five Officials Skip State of the Union Address". The New York Times. February 2, 2005. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  26. ^ 2006: The Philadelphia Inquirer, "A Message of Energy, Strength." February 1, 2006.
  27. ^ 2007: The Washington Post, "The Reliable Source." Page C3. January 25, 2007.
  28. ^ "Interior secretary skips speech as safeguard". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  29. ^ "US Defence Secretary Gates to sit out Obama inauguration". The Sydney Morning Herald. January 20, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  30. ^ Montopoli, Brian (January 19, 2009). "Gates To Be Designated Successor On Inauguration Day". CBS News.
  31. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (February 24, 2009). "Holder Staying Away From Obama's Speech". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2022.
  32. ^ "Energy secretary skips Obama health care address". San Diego Union-Tribune. September 10, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  33. ^ 2006: CNN, "Secretary Clinton misses State of the Union speech." January 27, 2010.
  34. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (January 25, 2011). "State of the Union: Ken Salazar to serve as 'designated survivor'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  35. ^ "State of the Union: Tom Vilsack to serve as Cabinet's 'designated survivor". The Washington Post. Associated Press. January 24, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  36. ^ "Shinseki absent from inaugural ceremonies". The San Diego Union-Tribune. January 21, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2022.
  37. ^ "Energy Secretary to be Designated Survivor during State of the Union". Fox News. January 28, 2014.
  38. ^ Miller, Zeke J (January 28, 2014). "This Man Will Be Your President If The Worst Happens Happens". Time. Archived from the original on January 30, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  39. ^ Jackson, David (January 20, 2015). "Obama's 'designated survivor:' Anthony Foxx". USA Today. Archived from the original on January 21, 2015.
  40. ^ Jackson, David (January 20, 2015). "If the Worst Happens at the State of the Union, Anthony Foxx Will Lead the Country". NationalJournal. Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  41. ^ Shalby, Colleen (January 12, 2016). "If #SOTU disaster strikes, Jeh Johnson ... or a Republican would become president". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  42. ^ Saenz, Arlette (January 12, 2016). "State of the Union: Jeh Johnson Named Designated Survivor". ABC News.
  43. ^ "Sen. Orrin Hatch acting as a designated survivor during inauguration". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  44. ^ Weaver, Dustin (January 20, 2017). "Jeh Johnson is designated survivor for inauguration". The Hill. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  45. ^ DeBonis, Mike; Johnson, Jenna (January 24, 2017). "Trump to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 24, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  46. ^ Stracqualursi, Veronica (March 1, 2017). "VA Secretary David Shulkin chosen as designated survivor". ABC News.
  47. ^ Westwood, Sarah. "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue State of the Union 'designated survivor'". Washington Examiner. Archived from the original on February 1, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  48. ^ Klein, Betsy; Gray, Noah (February 5, 2019). "Energy Secretary Rick Perry is the designated survivor". CNN. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  49. ^ Choi, Matthew (February 4, 2020). "The State of the Union's designated survivor: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt". Politico. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  50. ^ Knoller, Mark (February 4, 2020). "What to know about the "designated survivor" and State of the Union". CBS News. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  51. ^ a b Kime, Patricia (January 20, 2021). "Who Was the Designated Survivor for the Inauguration? Outgoing Administration Doesn't Say". Military.com. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  52. ^ Leonard, Ben. "No designated survivor for Biden's first joint address to Congress". Politico. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  53. ^ Lee, Min Jung (February 24, 2022). "White House chief of staff tells House Democrats he's hoping State of the Union address will boost Biden's poll numbers | CNN Politics". CNN. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  54. ^ Stiles, Matt; Vazquez, Maegan (February 7, 2023). "Labor Secretary Walsh is the 'designated survivor' at the State of the Union address". CNN.