May 13, 2005

Colloquium Speaker: Norman Polmar


Norman Polmar is an analyst, consultant, and author specializing in naval, strategic, and intelligence issues. Since 1980 Mr. Polmar has been a consultant to several senior officials in the Navy and Department of Defense, and has directed several studies for U.S. and foreign shipbuilding and aerospace firms. From 1982 to 1986, and from December 2002 he has been a member of the Secretary of the Navy's Research Advisory Committee (NRAC). He is currently serving as chairman of the NRAC panel looking into Navy science and technology requirements for supporting the Navy and Marine Corps in the year 2020. He was recently named to the Secretary of the Navy's Advisory Committee on Naval History. He has also been a consultant to the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and a panel member of the Naval Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Mr. Polmar previously served as a consultant to three U.S. Senators and two members of the House of Representatives, and as a consultant or advisor to three Secretaries of the Navy and two Chiefs of Naval Operations. He had a primary role in the writing of and was co-editor of From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century (1992), the U.S. Navy's initial post-Cold War strategy statement, and in several subsequent policy papers. Prior to 1980, Mr. Polmar was an executive and before that an analyst with research firms specializing in strategic and naval issues. This included four years with the Northrop Corporation working on U.S. Navy deep submergence search, recovery, salvage, and submarine rescue/escape programs. Mr. Polmar has written 40 books and numerous articles on naval, intelligence, and aviation subjects. His comparative history of U.S. and Soviet submarine design and construction during the Cold War, entitled Cold War Submarines: U.S. and Soviet Submarine Design and Construction, was published in November 2003. The book was written in collaboration with Mr. Kenneth J. Moore, an American submarine technologist, and with the Russian submarine design bureaus RUBIN and MALACHITE (Mr. Polmar's research for this project included several visits to Russia and his hosting the directors of the two Russian design bureaus in the United States). He is the author of the reference book Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet published at three-year intervals by the U.S. Naval Institute. He previously was author of the Naval Institute's reference book Guide to the Soviet Navy. These books are recognized internationally as the leading references in their respective fields. From 1967 to 1977, Mr. Polmar was editor of the United States and several other sections of the annual Jane's Fighting Ships. The first American to ever hold an editorship with that publication, he was totally responsible for almost one-third of the volume in that period. His awards include the Sigma Delta Chi Outstanding Journalism Graduate (1965), Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement (Navy League, 1976), Author Award of Merit (Naval Institute, 1986), Rear Admiral Ernest M. Eller Prize (U.S. Naval History Center, 1996; shared with Thomas B. Allen); and Admiral Arthur W. Radford Award (Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, 2004).


Colloquium Topic: Surprise! US and Western Intelligence and Warning Failures During the Cold War

During the 45 years of the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a brutal espionage conflict. Time and time again, each nation, through overt as well as covert means, sought to learn the innermost secrets of the opposing state. At the same time, both nations sought to develop comprehensive warning systems, to give some notice of the other's intentions with respect to initiating a conflict at any level of hostilities. At times the intelligence and warning efforts "spilled over" to their surrogates, as in the U.S. conflict with North Korea, which involved active Chinese and Soviet military participation; the U.S. conflict with North Vietnam; and the several Israeli conflicts with Soviet-supported Arab states. While at various times one side or the other held a temporary advantage in intelligence and warning, a "bottom line" for the Cold War era demonstrates that Western intelligence and warning efforts overwhelmingly failed in the face of Soviet efforts. Mr. Polmar will address these failures in both technical and operational areas; but he will concentrate his presentation on how Soviet submarine developments continually surprised Western naval and intelligence analysts. The latter discussion is based on a comparative analysis of U.S. and Soviet submarine design and construction during the Cold War that he undertook. Mr. Polmar's research for this project included several visits to Russia and his hosting the directors of the two Russian design bureaus in the United States. This effort was published, in part, as Cold War Submarines: U.S. and Soviet Submarine Design and Construction (Brassey's, 2003), written in collaboration with Mr. Kenneth J. Moore, an American submarine technologist, as well as with the Russian submarine design bureaus RUBIN and MALACHITE.