The Bush White House has picked Defense Secretary Robert Gates "as the designated successor" to take the reins of the government in the event of a catastrophe on Inauguration Day.

Gates will be sitting out the inauguration celebrations and will be spending the day outside the capital region at a military installation, according to the Pentagon.

It's common for one senior government official to sit out major events, such as the inauguration to ensure that the government has continuity and a leader in case of a terrorist attack or disaster.

-Roxana Tiron