Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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David Polatty

+1 401 662 9806

David Polatty

Visiting Scholar 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 strategic advisor to humanitarian organizations and nonprofit security organizations. He has over 28 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.  In September 2020, he began a new appointment as a Visiting Fellow within the Watson Institute and teaches two new undergraduate courses focused on human security and humanitarian response.

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 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 civil-military coordination during complex emergencies and natural disasters.

Dave specializes in strategy development, leadership, crisis planning, and humanitarian operations. His research interests include humanitarian civil-military coordination, militarization of humanitarian aid, protection of civilians in conflict, aid worker security, humanitarian access, climate change impacts, urbanization, militaries’ role in infectious disease response, and the erosion of international humanitarian law.

He is a fourth-generation Naval Officer and currently serves as a Captain 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 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.


IAPA 1803 - Humanitarian Response in Modern Conflict

IAPA 1804M - Overcoming Threats to Human Security