‘Designated survivor’ for State of the Union will be agriculture secretary

Annual U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Held In Washington_625599

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 6: Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, speaks during the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Capitol Hill, December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. The tree is a 79-foot-tall Engelmann Spruce tree that was grown in Montana.(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will skip Tuesday’s State of the Union address, serving as the so-called “designated survivor.”

A member of the presidential line of succession traditionally skips the address to the joint session of Congress and is safeguarded at an undisclosed location to ensure continuity of government in the event of a catastrophe. Usually, a lesser-known member of the president’s Cabinet is selected – with higher-profile officials retained to applaud the president’s speech from the floor of the House.

The Cold War-era ritual took on new significance after the attacks of September 11, 2001, as fears of terrorism replaced nuclear war as a top threat facing the nation.

A designated high-ranking member of Congress also traditionally skips the speech to maintain the legislative branch’s continuity plans.

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