VA secretary pulls back the curtain on what it's like to be the 'designated survivor'

VA Secretary on being the White House's designated survivor

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told CNBC on Friday that his role as the so-called designated survivor during President Donald Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress at the end of last month was "fortunately" a lot of preparation that wasn't needed.

Dr. Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration, did not attend Trump's Feb. 28 address. He said on "Squawk Box" he was at an undisclosed location outside of Washington.

"It is a location where there are a lot of young men and women who prepare very hard in the eventually that something catastrophic would happen," Shulkin said. "Most Americans will never see what I saw. [They] should know that the country takes this very seriously and they should feel good about that."

The designated survivor, dramatized by a television show of the same name starring Kiefer Sutherland, is picked as the person to become president in the event all those in the line of succession are killed.

Shulkin talked about how he was approached about the task. "I received a call. I was asked if I would be willing to do it. Of course I said I would, and was honored to do it."

If something happened to the president and the vice president, the House speaker would become president, followed by the Senate president pro tempore and then the Cabinet members in the order in which the departments were created. The secretary of Veterans Affairs was the second-to-last department created. Homeland Security was the last.