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NEWS | July 17, 2023

Black Relieves Petrovic as the 42nd NRL Commander

By Megan Gilliland, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

Capt. Jesse Black relieved Capt. Gregory Petrovic and assumed command as the 42nd commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) during a ceremony July 14, 2023. Black assumed command of NRL following his tour of duty as the executive officer.

Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus presented Petrovic with a Legion of Merit award for his exceptionally meritorious service as executive officer and commanding officer of NRL from June 2019 to June 2023.

“Capt. Petrovic led the lab through the arduous stages of the global pandemic while implementing long-lasting organizational improvements,” said Rothenhaus. “He dedicated himself to improving the material condition of a lab approaching its one hundred years of operation.”

During his tenure, Petrovic made significant contributions to the security of the United States by enabling the performance of a wide range of critical military research that will have enduring long-range impacts on both the military and economic instruments of power.

“For one hundred years, NRL has been researching, applying and transitioning critical technology to naval forces and our industry partners,” said Petrovic. “As an early-career naval aviator, I was surrounded by the very technologies developed at NRL. Those capabilities ensured the United States was never in a fair fight – we had the advantage.”

Black is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School, publishing his thesis on solid state power systems. As an officer, Black has led teams tasked with solving complex engineering challenges, such as Gerald R. Ford-class advanced weapons elevators, nuclear refueling complex overhauls and maintenance availabilities, and integrated power and propulsion systems on Zumwalt-class destroyers and Columbia-class submarines.

“I thought I came from a dangerous world, but when you are the first to touch science that has never been touched before, it is dangerous,” said Black. “As commanding officer, I will ensure safety remains at the forefront of our work while providing cutting-edge capabilities to our Sailors and Marines.”

Black was specially selected to serve in the White House as a Senior Sustainability Officer under two presidential administrations. He graduated from the University of Idaho with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and earned a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2007, publishing his thesis on solid state power systems.

“We will continue to celebrate achievements of this laboratory,” said Black. “The science and engineering machine is moving forward to guarantee global strategic dominance for our nation.”

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory 

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C., with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, Key West, Florida, and Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or

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