US veterans secretary sits out inauguration

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WASHINGTON—US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki stayed away from President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Monday as a standard precaution in case of a catastrophe, the White House said.

Under a tradition dating back to the Cold War, one member of the cabinet remains at a separate, secure location whenever the full US leadership is in one place, allowing succession in case of an attack or other crisis.

A White House official said Shinseki was the designated survivor at Obama’s inaugural ceremony at the US Capitol, which brought together the rest of the cabinet, as well as the top ranks of Congress and the judiciary.

Shinseki was the first Asian American to become a four-star general. He later served as army chief of staff, where he clashed with former president George W. Bush’s administration through his prescient prediction that the Iraq invasion would require more troops than planned.

At Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, the designated successor was then defense secretary Robert Gates, who stayed in the cabinet at the new president’s request after serving in the Bush administration.

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