Leslie Adrienne Payne

Photo of Leslie Payne
Senior Defense Analyst
Santa Monica Office


M.A. in security policy studies, The George Washington University; M.A. in international political theory, The New School for Social Research; B.A. in cultural anthropology, Howard University


Leslie Adrienne Payne is a senior defense analyst with a background in counterinsurgency social science and military analysis. Much of her RAND research has focused on security cooperation, counterinsurgency, U.S. military doctrine, Air Force acquisitions and cost analysis, and diversity related issues within the military services.

Prior to joining RAND, Payne was a social scientist with the Department of the Army's Human Terrain System (HTS), where she served two 13-month tours while attached to U.S. Army and USMC combat units in southern Iraq and southern Afghanistan, respectively. Payne has experience conducting battalion and company level anthropological field research in austere, kinetic environments in support of military commanders. She earned the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service (U.S. Army) and the Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service (USMC).

Payne co-authored Social Science Goes to War: The Human Terrain System in Iraq and Afghanistan (Oxford, 2015) in which she discusses civilian-military integration challenges at the tactical level in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Before joining HTS, Payne spent several years as a military analyst with the CIA, focusing on former Soviet Union states, West Africa and international private military firms.

Payne holds a M.A. in security policy studies from George Washington University, a M.A. in international political theory from The New School for Social Research, and a B.A. in cultural anthropology from Howard University. She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in War Studies at King's College London. Her dissertation research examines civilian-military integration and cohesion on small teams during warfare. Leslie is a native Southern Californian.

Previous Positions

Social Scientist; C.I.A. Intelligence Officer; C.I.A. Military Analyst

Recent Projects

  • India's Regional Role
  • US Air Force-Pakistan Partnership
  • 3x MQ-1/9 Training
  • Weapons System Acquisition and Cost Analysis Project
  • Women Retention Operations (US Air Force)

Selected Publications

Leslie Adrienne Payne "Allied Civilian Enablers and the Helmand Surge," in McFate et al., Social Science Goes to War, Oxford University Press, 2015

Honors & Awards

  • Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, US Department of the Army (for service in Iraq)
  • Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service, United States Marine Corps (for service in Afghanistan)