Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)
David Polatty

David Polatty

David Polatty

Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs

Dave is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), a Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and consultant to humanitarian organizations and nonprofit security organizations. He has over 27 years of professional experience with a focus on national and human security, crisis planning, and humanitarian response. In September 2019, he began an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, supporting the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies.

Since 2008, Dave has served as a civilian professor at NWC, where he teaches a number of postgraduate courses on strategic planning and crisis response. He is also the founder and director of NWC’s Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Program (HRP). HRP's mission is to improve the U.S. Navy’s and international militaries’ effectiveness in conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations through innovative education, research, and simulation activities. HRP partners and networks with leading universities, humanitarian organizations, and government agencies in order to advance humanitarian civilian-military coordination during complex emergencies and natural disasters.

Dave specializes in joint/multinational military operations, strategy development, leadership, crisis planning, humanitarian operations, and maritime security. His research interests include humanitarian civilian-military coordination, militarization of humanitarian aid, mitigation of civilian casualties in conflict, deconfliction of humanitarian operations, climate change, urbanization, militaries’ role in infectious disease outbreaks, and the erosion of international humanitarian law.

He is a fourth-generation Naval Officer and currently serves as a Captain (O-6) in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has commanded five Navy Reserve units that focus on planning and operations - U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet, U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, U.S. European Command J3 (Operations), and Chief of Naval Operations, N3/N5 (Operations and Plans). Currently, he is the Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer to Rhode Island. While on active duty from 1992 to 2003, he served as both a Surface Warfare Officer and Naval Flight Officer.

Dave graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1992, earning a BS in History. He graduated with highest distinction from the U.S. Naval War College in 2006, earning a MA in National Security Strategic Studies and receiving the Navy League William S. Sims Award. He is also a graduate of U.S. Joint Forces Staff College and designated as a Joint Qualified Officer (Level III). He was awarded NWC’s inaugural Faculty Service Excellence Award and the Navy Civilian Meritorious Service Medal in August 2017.