US Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks in Budapest on November 13, 2018.
ATTILA KISBENEDEK—AFP/Getty Images
By Tara Law
Updated: February 5, 2019 9:17 PM ET | Originally published: February 6, 2019

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is the designated survivor for the 2019 State of the Union address.

During events that bring the whole government together (such as an Inauguration or State of the Union address), a “designated survivor” – a member of Congress or a low-level cabinet member – waits in a secure location, ready to take over and lead the country in the unlikely event of a disaster.

The practice originated at some point during the Cold War, but it took on renewed resonance after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2018, the State of the Union Survivor was Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The idea of the designated survivor was so intriguing that inspired the network TV show Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland. The series ran for two seasons on ABC, and Netflix is planning to release a third season sometime this year.

As soon as the news that Rick Perry is the designated survivor was announced, people took to Twitter to remember the moment the Energy Secretary and former presidential candidate appeared on the reality show Dancing with the Stars.

Perry is also remembered for his time as a 2016 presidential candidate, when he said he wanted to cut three government departments during a debate – and then forgetting that he wanted to cut the department he now leads.

“The third agency of government I would do away with—the education, uh, the, uh, commerce and let’s see. I can’t—the third one. Sorry. Oops,” Perry said.

Write to Tara Law at tara.law@time.com.

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