Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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David Polatty

David Polatty

+1 401 863 6789

David Polatty

Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs


Dave Polatty spent nearly 30 years in US government service in a number of key leadership roles, as both a professor at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He has also worked as a strategic advisor to humanitarian nonprofit organizations and his professional experiences focus on national and human security, strategy development, crisis planning, and humanitarian response.

Dave has been a civilian professor at NWC for 14 years where he designed and taught a number of postgraduate courses on strategic planning and crisis response. He also founded and directed NWC’s Humanitarian Response Program, which aims 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. 

He is a fourth-generation naval officer and continues to serve as a Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He served as Commanding Officer of five Navy Reserve units focused 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). He is currently the Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer to Rhode Island, working closely with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and Rhode Island National Guard. 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 the 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.


Dave's research primarily focuses on civil-military coordination in humanitarian response and his active research efforts include:

1. Humanitarian Notification Systems for Deconfliction (Brown/Naval War College/Stanford Law School)

2.  Protection of Civilians in Great Power Conflict (Brown/Center for Civilians in Conflict/Naval War College)

3. Civilian-Military Interaction in Conflicts: Best Practices and Perceptions (Brown/Naval War College) - funded by US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, & Migration

4. Global Military Engagements in the COVID-19 Response (Brown/Naval War College)


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.