Rear Adm. Payne was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Following completion of undergraduate and graduate school at the University of New Mexico, he entered the Navy in 1975. Upon commission in February 1976, he reported to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California.
Payne’s, previous flag assignments include deputy J5 U.S. Central Command; deputy commander Naval Special Warfare Command, Coronado, California. and deputy/director of operations, Center for Special Operations, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Payne completed operational and department head duties with Underwater Demolition Team 11 and SEAL Team One, including independent duty with Foreign Special Forces, he drafted the SEAL Cold Weather Operations Manual, and was assistant officer in charge of one of the largest peacetime underwater demolition projects in Navy history, supporting Defense Nuclear Agency reclamation efforts at Enewetak Atoll.
In 1981 he was assigned to the U. S. Naval Academy as a company officer. His company was recognized as most improved in the brigade his first year aboard. In June 1983, he served as an intern with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was assigned to the deputy director for Politico/Military Affairs as the South Asia desk officer. In 1984 he served in the Navy's Advanced Education Program.
Payne pursued full time graduate studies at Georgetown University where he received a Master’s in Government with a certificate in National Security Studies. Following graduation, he was selected a proven Politico/Military sub-specialist (Middle East/South Asia/Africa).
His last active duty assignment was as operations officer for Naval Special Warfare Unit 1, Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. He entered law school at the University of New Mexico in 1987.
Payne's initial reserve assignments included executive officer NR-AE-25 (Haleakala), Commander Seventh Fleet 111 Special Warfare plans officer, and commanding officer NR-AD 43 (Cape Cod), which was chosen REDCOM 11 Reserve Unit of the Year.
Payne next served three years as an IMA with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-3 Special Operations Division, Combating Terrorism Branch. During this period he was recalled to active duty on the Joint Staff for Operation Desert Storm, and subsequently completed several extended periods on active duty for other operations including early Bosnia and Somalia intervention efforts.
He returned to Coronado in 1993 as joint operations coordinator for NR-Naval Special Warfare Command, serving as commanding officer NR-SEAL Team 5. In October 1996, he assumed command of United States Special Operations Command Detachment 108, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. October 1998 to September 2001 he served as reserve commodore for Special Boat Squadron One, Coronado; October 2001 to September 2003 as commander Naval Special Warfare Command (Reserve).
Payne's personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medals (four awards), Joint Service Achievement Medal, and permanent award of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Service Badge. As a civilian, Payne is an attorney and a New Mexico State Senator.