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A matter of continuity

Published October 5, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By jonathan bernstein

Special to The Washington Post

Thursday's car chase and shooting near the U.S. Capitol are a useful reminder that one of the big tasks identified after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was to address issues with the continuity of federal government. Today, this remains incomplete.

It has been four years since the Continuity of Government Commission, a collaboration of think tanks, foundations and former government workers, rightly recommended changing the order of presidential succession. As things stand, the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate and minor Cabinet secretaries are all in line to succeed the president. But there is no good reason to put the speaker, who might well be from the opposite party from the president, so close to the Oval Office. The same is true for the president pro tempore. Some Cabinet officials could be excellent choices, but in the kind of crisis that would require the seventh or 11th in line to assume the presidency, the nation would be better off turning to someone with real preparation to handle such awesome responsibilities.

The commission recommended reordering the line of succession to: vice president, secretary of state, secretary of the Treasury, secretary of defense, attorney general and then four or five individuals who live outside Washington. All would be confirmed by the Senate.Those selected could be (or remain) at least minimally briefed on affairs during normal times so they would be prepared, should they be called upon during a disaster.

This is one of the many important issues before our nation, and it should not be forgotten.