Profits nudged up but sales fell at McLean-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in the first quarter, the company reported Wednesday.

Booz Allen, whose fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31, reported sales of $1.32 billion in the first quarter, a drop of 7.4 percent. The decline was due to staff cuts, which resulted in fewer billable hours, the company said. Booz Allen cut 2 percent of its staff in 2012 and reduced its workforce by 500 in 2013.

Profit rose to $71.1 million or 47 cents a share, from $70.3 million a year ago. The increase was due to effective cost management, the company said. Booz Allen declared a special dividend of $1 per share payable on Aug. 29.

Booz Allen chief executive Ralph Shrader told investors that he was optimistic about the company’s business prospects, compared with a year ago.

“This summer, Congress is in a much better place than last summer, with a budget deal and spending deal in place,” Shrader said. “As a result, our clients have much more certainty and actually know how much money they have to spend.”

Still, Kevin Cook, Booz Allen’s chief financial officer, noted that the type of work Booz Allen received was mostly short-term. Government clients were still “reluctant to commit funds” for long-term projects, Cook said.

Shrader announced in July that he will step down as chief executive at the end of 2014. The company’s chief operating officer, Horacio Rozanski, is set to replace him.