Watson Institute at Brown University
International and Public Affairs
David Polatty

David Polatty

+1 401 863 6789

David Polatty

Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs
Director, Military Fellows Program

Areas of Interest: Military planning, strategy development, humanitarian response, human security, leadership.


Dave Polatty is a Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute teaching undergraduate IAPA courses, conducting innovative research, and directing the Military Fellows Program.  He spent 45 combined years in U.S. government service in multiple leadership roles, as both a civilian professor at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He has also worked as a senior executive and strategic advisor for humanitarian nongovernmental organizations and his professional experiences focus on national and human security, strategy development, crisis planning, and humanitarian response.

Dave is a fourth-generation U.S. Navy officer and retired as a Captain in 2022. From 2009 to 2019, he commanded five different Navy Reserve units that supported multinational and U.S. military operations around the globe: U.S. Forces Korea/United Nations Command/U.S.-R.O.K. Combined Forces Command, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet, U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating WMD, U.S European Command, and OPNAV N3/N5 .  While on active duty from 1992 to 2003, he served as  a Surface Warfare Officer and Naval Flight Officer.

From 2008 to 2022, he served as a professor at NWC where he founded and directed the Humanitarian Response Program, and designed and taught numerous postgraduate courses on strategic planning and humanitarian response.

He holds a BS in History from the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with highest distinction from the U.S. Naval War College, earning a MA in National Security Strategic Studies and receiving the Navy League William S. Sims Award. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Joint Forces Staff College and designated as a Joint Qualified Officer (Level III).


Dave's research focuses on a broad range of humanitarian issues:

1. Humanitarian Notification Systems for Deconfliction (UNOCHA/Brown)

2. Localization of Humanitarian Action (InterAction/Brown)

3. Practical Measures to Prevent and Mitigate Conflict-Induced Hunger (InterAction/CARE/Brown)

4. Protection Outcomes in Civil-Military Engagement (InterAction/Brown)

5. Global Military Engagements in the COVID-19 Response (Brown)


2021 - “Civil-Military Coordination in Disaster Response,” Co-authored with Court, M. and Horne, S.  Chapter for the 3rd Edition of Ciottone’s Disaster Medicine.  Accepted for upcoming publication by Elsevier. Amsterdam, Netherlands

2021 - “Operationalizing Equity During Local Pandemic Response,” Co-authored with Raymond, N. et al.  EClinicalMedicine, Published by The Lancet.  June 7, 2021. London, United Kingdom.

2021 - “Civilian perception of the role of the military in Nigeria’s 2014 Ebola outbreak and health-related responses in the North East region,” Co-authored with Kwaja, CMA et al. BMJ Military Health.  February 5, 2021. London, United Kingdom.

2021 - “The political and security dimensions of the humanitarian health response to violent conflict,” Co-authored with Wise, P. et al.  The Lancet. April 24, 2021. London, United Kingdom.