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 social science and qualitative research methods. Since 2012, much of her RAND research has focused on security cooperation, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and, for the past few years, pertinent issues in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) space—especially as it relates to the military services.

Leslie has extensive experience conducting on-the-ground anthropological field research in austere, kinetic environments. Prior to joining 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 attached to US Army and USMC combat units in southern Iraq and southern Afghanistan, respectively. On account of these tours 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.

Leslie 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 PhD in War Studies at King’s College London. Her dissertation research examines civilian-military cohesion on small teams during warfare

Previous Positions

Social Scientist, US Department of the Army; Intelligence Officer, CIA; Military Analyst, CIA

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 "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)