Air Force Col. James Burton, who has irritated the Army with his calls for realistic testing of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, has been ordered to report to a new job in Ohio, prompting sharp protests from Capitol Hill.

This is not the first time the Defense Department has tried to reassign Burton, who has become a hero to Pentagon critics in Congress because of his insistence on live-fire tests for the controversial Bradley. The Pentagon tried to abolish his current job in the defense secretary's office and also tried to reassign him to Alaska but backed down both times in the face of congressional dismay.

Now, according to sources, Burton has been told to accept a position as "deputy director of mission area analysis" at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Pentagon officials say Burton has served far more time in the Pentagon than the normal three-year tour.

His backers do not disagree, but they say he should not be moved during the Bradley tests. The Army resisted conducting such tests, which have shown vulnerabilities in the troop carrier, and Burton and Army officials have produced differing interpretations of the early test results.

First to weigh in against Burton's transfer this time were the leaders of the Military Reform Caucus, Reps. Denny Smith (R-Ore.) and Mel Levine (D-Calif.) and Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and David H. Pryor (D-Ark.). Many members of the House Armed Services Committee reportedly also have expressed concern, including Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) and former chairman Melvin Price (D-Ill.).

Burton reportedly must notify the Air Force today whether he plans to go to Ohio or retire.