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A strong and trusting relationship between civilian leadership and senior military officials is vital for the Air Force to carry out its mission, said Gen. Mike Hostage, Air Combat Command boss, at AFA's Air and Space Conference, Sept. 16, 2014. Staff photo by Kristina L. Parrill

A strong and trusting relationship between civilian leadership and senior military officials is vital for the Air Force, and US military overall, to carry out its mission, said Gen. Mike Hostage, Air Combat Command boss, in his speech at AFA's Air and Space Conference on Tuesday. This was Hostage's final speech at the annual National Harbor, Md., event before his retirement. With the Air Force today having nearly half the end strength and a fraction of the force structure it had when Hostage first entered the service, while new tasks and missions continue to pile up, it's incumbent on military leaders to give their best advice on proposed changes, he said. The Air Force is facing serious challenges because of intransigence on some proposed budget cuts, which will affect readiness if not changed, said Hostage. He noted he could close one of every three ACC bases and still retain enough infrastructure to support the combat air force. Due to the lack of movement on base closures, "real cuts to combat power" are now necessary, he said.