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Bid for more US defense funds gets chilly House reception

(Adds quotes from hearing)

By David Alexander and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - U.S. military officials seeking a big boost in defense spending received little encouragement on Thursday from a House panel reviewing their bid for more funds, with one lawmaker saying the extra money would have to be cut "with you or ... without you."

Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives, chided President Barack Obama for proposing a $534 billion Pentagon base budget that "ignores the law" by exceeding federal spending caps by nearly $35 billion.

Frelinghuysen told Navy and Marine Corps leaders to submit specific lists of programs that could be cut if Congress failed to approve the Democratic president's request for more funding.

"With respect, I will advise you that we will cut the $13 billion with you or we will cut it without you, but we need to do the job the law requires us to do," he said, noting the Navy's budget request was about $13 billion above the levels allotted under spending limits passed in 2011.

"We are bound to follow the law until instructed otherwise," he said.

Frelinghuysen told reporters after the hearing that he saw growing consensus that the military needed more flexibility to deal with "a dangerous world," but said the Republican-controlled Congress was far from agreement on removing budget caps known as "sequestration."

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, and General Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant, warned that deep spending cuts since 2011 had already harmed military readiness and further reductions could cost the lives of troops.

"Any funding level below ... this submission will require revision to our defense strategy. And put simply, it will damage the national security of the country," Greenert told the defense appropriations subcommittee.

Dunford said deep budget cuts would force the Marines to cut training and maintenance, resulting in fewer units ready for action in the event of war and fewer trained Marines deployed overseas.

"In a major conflict, those shortfalls will result in delayed response and/or the unnecessary loss of young American lives," he said.

Pressed on how to cut $13 billion from their budget request, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said his biggest priority was to protect shipbuilding and the reductions would probably have to come from training, maintenance, modernization and procurement.

Those decisions will have a big impact on Navy suppliers like General Dynamics Corp, Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, Lockheed Martin Corp and Austal.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Alexander; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Chris Reese)