Correction: This story misspelled the last name of Greg Slavonic in some references. The story has been corrected.
Navy’s football team isn’t its only presence in Tulsa this week.
Oklahoman Greg Slavonic, U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s former chief of staff and now the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, has been in town on official business since Thursday. On Saturday he will swear in 50 new recruits at halftime of the University of Tulsa-Navy football game.
“It’s called an executive engagement visit,” said Slavonic. “We bring in senior executives and senior officers for 48 hours to talk with civic leaders, business leaders, local officials. It’s important we tell people what’s going on in the Navy and Marine Corps.”
Slavonic is a political appointee, but he spent 34 years in the Navy and the Naval Reserve, beginning as an enlistee in 1971 and retiring as an admiral.
He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and received his master’s at the University of Central Oklahoma.
In his current position, Slavonic is essentially the chief human resources officer for the Navy and Marines, including reserves and civilian employees. That’s a total force of about 800,000, a substantial number of whom must be replaced every year. Slavonic and his aide, Marine Col. Coby Moran, said about 35,000 Marines and 38,000 sailors leave annually.
“We’re in a war for talent,” Slavonic said. “Everybody out there is competing for these folks.
“We’re making our goals. But with 3 to 3½% unemployment it’s difficult. And there are challenges with the 18-24 age cohort that we typically draw from. For various reasons, such as education or physical fitness, only about 25% of those are available for recruitment.”
Joining the service is no longer a matter of just learning to shoot a gun and swab a deck. The increasingly technical and complex nature of modern weapons systems requires recruits with highly developed skills or the ability to acquire them.
That’s why two of Slavonic’s first stops were the University of Tulsa and Will Rogers College High.
At Will Rogers, Slavonic talked to the Junior Navy ROTC.
At TU, he met with President Gerard Clancy to talk about cybersecurity.
“I heard about what the university was doing in cybersecurity while I was working for Sen. Lankford,” Slavonic said. “A report that came out in 2018 showed the Navy is vulnerable to cyberattacks.”
That report was made public in March. In it, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said, “Competitors and potential adversaries have exploited (Navy) information systems, penetrated its defenses, and stolen massive amounts of national security.”
Such problems are right down the alley of TU’s cybersecurity program, which is why Slavonic wants to strengthen ties with the university.
While in Tulsa, Slavonic also met with Mayor G.T. Bynum, several local industries and chamber of commerce staff.
“We want to tell them about the Navy,” said Slavonic.