Brian VanDeMark teaches history at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. VanDeMark attended the honors college of the University of Texas, Austin, where he received his B.A. in 1981 and his M.A. in 1983 under the direction of Robert Divine. He then attended UCLA, where he received his Ph.D. under the direction of Robert Dallek in 1988.
In 1987-1990, VanDeMark served as research assistant to Clark Clifford and Richard Holbrooke in the preparation of Clifford's best-selling memoir, Counsel to the President. VanDeMark has taught at Annapolis since 1990. In 1991, he published Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War.
In 1995, he co-authored Robert McNamara's #1 best-selling memoir of the Vietnam War, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. In Retrospect became the basis of Errol Morris's Academy Award-winning documentary film, "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara".
In 1999-2000, VanDeMark served as Freeman Professor of American History at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, China. In the spring of 2002, he was elected a Visiting Fellow at St. Catherine's College, University of Oxford.
In 2003, on the eve of the publication of his book, Pandora's Keepers: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb, rival historians accused him of plagiarism. The Naval Academy investigated the charge and found VanDeMark had committed inadvertent errors. Yale University history professor Daniel Kevles addressed the controversy in The New York Review of Books. Kevles concluded that "something like half" of the allegations were reasonable paraphrases and the remaining ones were "not important". VanDeMark's publisher, Little Brown, published a corrected paperback edition of Pandora's Keepers in 2005.
In 2012, VanDeMark published American Sheikhs: Two Families, Four Generations, and the Story of America's Influence in the Middle East, which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Kai Bird praised as a "highly original contribution to our understanding of America's troubling relationship with the Middle East."