President Obama has nominated BGen Chris Burne to be the next The JAG of the Air Force (TJAG):
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced today that the president has made the following nominations:
Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Burne has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment as the judge advocate general, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Burne is currently serving as the staff judge advocate, Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
General Harding is one of the last senior officers from the tenure of former Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz — and one of the last to have a long running, if tenuous, relationship with military religious freedom critic Michael “Mikey” Weinstein. (General Harding’s predecessor, LtGen Jack Rives, went on to publicly endorse Weinstein’s cause, as has General William Lord; General Schwartz did not, and apparently suffered the consequences.)
For a short time, Weinstein had access to General Mark Welsh, but that door was shut, and Weinstein has had to correspond with LtGen Harding’s office instead. Weinstein met personally with LtGen Harding in April; one outcome of that meeting was a statement attributed to LtGen Harding that a forthcoming “blue pamphlet” would be a “panacea to all religious issues” in the Air Force. Turns out that “blue book” was just AFI 1-1, published last year by General Schwartz and which included a section on religion; Weinstein has said he was “THE decisive” person responsible for the section on religion in that Air Force regulation.
With each retirement and promotion, Weinstein renews his efforts to use the US military as a tool in his personal vendetta against Christians in America. With LtGen Harding’s retirement, soon-to-be LtGen Burne will probably (like it or not) become Weinstein’s go-to guy at the Pentagon.
Under General Welsh’s watch, Weinstein’s influence over the Air Force has waned, and in at least one case actually been rebuffed. Still, as the recent incident at Shaw AFB demonstrated, the role of the Air Force JAG corps has not been incidental to religious freedom in the Air Force. With a new cadre in place, it will be interesting to see what the future may hold.
Update: Gen Burne was promoted and became the TJAG in August of 2014.