Preserving Our Institutions: Presidential Succession
A Continuity of Government Commission Report on Presidential Succession

A new report by the AEI-Brookings Continuity of Government Commission examines vulnerabilities in the U.S. presidential succession. It has long been assumed that prospects for a smooth transfer of presidential power in the event of a terrorist attack are assured, as there is already a clear line of succession to the nation's highest office. But is this plan sufficient? While congressional continuity could be in worse danger, the report's authors point out that, as it stands, the existing presidential succession could be rendered useless by a catastrophic attack because everyone in line to succeed the president lives and works in Washington, D.C.

In an age in which terrorism has become a realistic concern, what are the best ways to limit vulnerability in American presidential succession? In this new report, the Commission looks at the flaws of the current system and offers seven specific recommendations for improving the process. Among them is a proposal to alter the line of succession to ensure that Americans will never face a scenario in which all those in line to be president are dead or incapacitated.

On the day of the report's release, the American Enterprise Institute will host an event featuring a keynote address by Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, and two panel discussions to delve into the issues raised by the report. The first panel, composed of academics, will look at the legal and constitutional basis for presidential succession. The second panel, made up of practitioners, will approach the issues surrounding continuity in presidential succession from a more practical viewpoint, providing insight into how reforms to presidential succession might be put into practice.

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About the Author

 

Norman J.
Ornstein
  • Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI's Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by The Economist "a classic"); and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books. It was named as one of 2012's best books on pollitics by The New Yorker and one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.
  • Phone: 202-862-5893
    Email: nornstein@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Jennifer Marsico
    Phone: 202-862-5899
    Email: jennifer.marsico@aei.org

 

John C.
Fortier

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Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

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