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Defense contractor L-3 Communication Systems has laid off about 190 Utah employees, citing downward trends in defense spending and the prospect of short-term cuts due to the budget impasse in Washington.

The layoffs, representing about 4.2 percent of the company's workforce in Utah, were ``difficult but necessary'' to maintain the division's competitiveness and to boost its ability to win and execute new contracts, a company spokeswoman said Thursday.

Workers at L-3's Salt Lake City site were informed Thursday morning of the job losses, which affected operations, administrative, engineering, technical and professional staff.

``These are hard times to put into words,'' said Camille Guth, vice president for human resources for L-3 Communication Systems-West in Utah.

Guth said that while long-term declines in U.S. military outlays have put pressure on L-3 and others defense contractors in recent years, the uncertainty spawned by this year's automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, also played a major role in the layoffs.

She said the company has offered severance packages to laid-off workers and has hired an outside firm to help them find new jobs.

Headquartered in New York, L-3 Communications provides a broad range of electronic systems used on military and commercial platforms.

Its Salt Lake City-based subsidiary develops and manufactures communications systems for high-performance intelligence collection, imagery processing and satellite communications, primarily for the U.S. Department of Defense.

L-3 Communications Systems-West employs about 4,400 people in Utah, ranking it among the state's top 10 private employers.

Worldwide, L-3 has a labor force of nearly 51,000 people. The publicly trade company posted revenue of $13.1 billion in 2012.

An L-3 corporate spokeswoman in New York did not return a call seeking comment.

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