Leslie Adrienne Payne

Leslie Adrienne Payne
Political Scientist
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in defence studies, King's College London; 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 (she/her) is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation with a combined background in social and political science and qualitative research methods. Since 2012, much of her research has focused on terrorism and counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and civilian-military social relations. Her March 2021 college textbook, Counterterrorism: Mission Critical Skills, focuses on the importance of emotional intelligence and soft skills during counterterrorism operations. Simultaneously, her Ph.D. research centers on civilian-military team cohesion. Payne's research also includes pertinent issues in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) space—especially within the military services.

Payne has extensive experience conducting on-the-ground anthropological field research in austere, kinetic environments. Prior to RAND, she was a deployed social scientist with the Department of the Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS), where she served two 13-month tours while embedded with Army and USMC combat units in Iraq and southern Afghanistan. Accordingly, she earned the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service (US Army) and the Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service (USMC). Leslie also spent several years as an intelligence officer and military analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), focusing on former Soviet Union states, West Africa and international private military firms.

She holds a Ph.D. in Defence Studies from King's College London; M.A. in Security Policy Studies from The 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. Payne was born and raised in Los Angeles. 

Previous Positions

Social Scientist, US Department of the Army; Intelligence Officer, CIA; Military Analyst, CIA; Defense Analyst, Jane's

Recent Projects

  • US and Allied Military Policies Against Domestic Extremism
  • Enhancing Equity Across FEMA Operations
  • Envisioning a New Racial Grievance Reporting and Redress System for the U.S. Military
  • Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in USCG
  • US Army Multi-Domain Operations

Selected Publications

Leslie Adrienne Payne, Counterterrorism: Mission Critical Skills, Cognella Academic Press, 2021

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)