updated 1/27/2010 9:29:37 PM ET 2010-01-28T02:29:37

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton missed President Barack Obama's State of the Union address to attend a conference in London, but she was not the only absentee Cabinet member.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was designated by the White House to ride out the speech in an undisclosed location as a precaution against the possibility of a catastrophe wiping out the rest of the government leadership.

When Clinton became aware that her trip to London — for separate conferences on Yemen and Afghanistan — would coincide with the State of the Union address, aides approached the White House about it.

"Could she be the Cabinet member who remains outside the Capitol? We were told that the 'undisclosed location' must be in the United States," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Obama felt it was more important for her to go to London than to remain for his speech, Crowley said.

"She asked the president directly, 'What do you want me to do?' And he was very clear: These (London talks) are priorities, so your place is in London working on Yemen and Afghanistan-Pakistan," Crowley said.

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