December 5, 2022
Questions about the continuity of our key institutions have arisen at pivotal moments throughout our nation's history. Watershed events such as the Cold War, the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy brought continuity-of-government issues into sharp public relief. Ultimately, these events led to significant reforms, including the 25th Amendment and a new Presidential Succession Act.A decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the 9/11 attacks forced continuity issues back into the public consciousness. One result was the creation of the first Continuity of Government Commission, the predecessor to the current commission. More than two decades after 9/11, we still have to ask ourselves, Do we have the legal and constitutional framework in place to ensure that our key institutions of government could recover from a catastrophic event?America has in place legal and constitutional provisions that address presidential succession. These provisions serve us well in the straightforward case of a president's death while in office. However, the current system does not adequately address less straightforward scenarios, such as a mass attack on multiple people in the line of succession, the simultaneous incapacity of the president and vice president, and unique succession issues that could arise between Election Day and Inauguration Day.In this report, the Continuity of Government Commission recommends several changes to the Presidential Succession Act that address these vulnerabilities. These recommendations would not require constitutional amendments; they are achievable through simple legislative changes.