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Arms makers welcome dialogue with Pentagon as budget woes rise

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a briefing on the Defense Department's FY2014 budget at the Pentagon in Washington April 10
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a briefing on the Defense Department's FY2014 budget at the Pentagon in Washington April 10

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Executives at U.S. weapons makers on Tuesday said their meeting on Monday with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was a "positive continuation" of a dialogue begun by his predecessor, Leon Panetta.

About 50 defense industry executives met with Hagel and other top Pentagon leaders to discuss mandatory, across-the-board defense spending cuts that took effect on March 1 and other issues facing the arms industry.

"Bottom line, our CEOs came away from the meeting with renewed confidence in the shared concern that protecting the defense industrial base is an imperative that goes hand in hand with protecting America's national security," said Chip Sheller, spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association.

AIA, the largest defense industry trade group, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services hosted the meeting, which included executives from big weapons makers, smaller companies and service providers.

"Secretary Hagel conveyed his commitment to open dialogue with the defense industry as both corporations and the department deal with fiscal constraints," said Pentagon spokesman George Little in a statement about the meeting.

He said Hagel underscored his commitment to preserving a strong and healthy industrial base. "He also expressed his strong support for expanding defense trade with allies and partners around the world and commended corporations for their veterans hiring initiatives," Little said.

Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and other defense companies last week reported strong earnings and margins even as revenues began to taper off after a decade of sharp growth linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Andrew Hay)

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