Defense Secretary Will Skip Inauguration
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the lone member of the Bush Cabinet who will keep his job under President-elect Barack Obama, will go today to a military base outside Washington, as the "designated successor" to run the federal government in case of a catastrophe during the inauguration, officials said yesterday.
The secretary of defense is sixth in line to succeed the president, under the Presidential Succession Act. That law was passed to create a framework for the elected government to continue if the president and other national leaders were killed by a nuclear bomb or other such attack.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told Agence France-Presse that Gates "will be spending the day at a military installation outside the national capital region." He declined to offer further details, citing security concerns.
Those officials who rank ahead of Gates in the line of succession -- Vice President Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson -- are expected to be at the Capitol today to witness the handover of power from President Bush to Obama.
Similar arrangements are put into place when a president addresses a joint session of Congress, as in the State of the Union address.
January 20, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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