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HUD's Shaun Donovan was Cabinet's 'designated survivor'

By Ed O'Keefe

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan served as the Cabinet's "designated survivor," White House officials said Wednesday night.

Shaun Donovan
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan

Donovan stayed away from the U.S. Capitol during President Obama's State of the Union address, prepared to assume control of the federal government in the event of a catastrophic event during the speech.

Though Donovan served as the Cabinet's official absentee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also skipped the speech to attend a long-scheduled conference in London.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. served as "designated survivor" last year and was the third attorney general in recent history to stay away from the big speech.

The first acknowledgment of an absent Cabinet secretary appears to have been in 1963, when then-Rep. Charles S. Joelson (D-N.J.) told The Washington Post that "seldom if ever do all of the Cabinet members show up for joint sessions." The White House first publicly released the name of the designated absentee during the Nixon administration, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Since 1984, records show, the interior secretary has skipped the big speech most often. Last year, Dirk Kempthorne did not attend Bush's final State of the Union speech. Other interior secretaries staying away: Gale Norton in 2002, Bruce Babbitt in 1993, Manuel Lujan in 1991 and Donald P. Hodel in 1988.

Donald Evans, commerce secretary from 2001 to 2005, is the only Cabinet secretary to serve as designated survivor twice, in 2004 and 2005.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 27, 2010; 8:48 PM ET
Categories:  44: Obama's Washington, Administration  
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While it was good to exercise the continuity of government process, even in the event of a catastrophic attack on the senior leaders in government Secretary Donovan's presence was redundant. Secretary of State Clinton, as the senior cabinet officer, would have automatically been the next President. Her presence in or out of the country doesn't affect Presidential succession.

Posted by: rkmjrm1 | January 28, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

@rkmjrm1: Donovan's absence wasn't redundant; there's a difference COG-wise with someone being in a secure facility stateside and someone being out of the country at a conference. For example, if a statement had to be made from the Oval Office, the designated absentee would be there a lot quicker than someone overseas.

Posted by: jeendee | January 28, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

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