Padden received his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for 12 years as a commissioned officer. During his time in the service, he earned a JD from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1991.
Padden served as an assistant general counsel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he was assigned as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for five years in the eastern district of Virginia.
In 1997, he joined the Justice Department. As a trial attorney for the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS), he conducted OCDETF investigations targeting Mexican drug trafficking organizations and successfully prosecuted the resulting multi-defendant cases.
Padden then was assigned as an attorney-coordinator and deputy chief at the multi-agency Special Operations Division (SOD). At SOD, he handled intelligence-based targeting of narcotics trafficking and narco-terrorist organizations and coordinated the resulting multi-jurisdiction, multi-national wiretap investigations. He also served as the acting chief and as the principal deputy chief for NDDS.
Prior to joining the OCDETF, he served as the acting deputy director, the acting assistant director for intelligence, and the acting general counsel at the National Drug Intelligence Center.
In June 2008, Padden was made deputy director of OCDETF.