The U.S. Defense Department and the rest of the federal government have been operating under a continuing resolution since fiscal 2023 began Oct. 1. Congress punted on passing formal appropriations until after the midterm elections, with both Republicans and Democrats hoping favorable results would give them leverage in the final negotiations. But the results are in: Democrats have control of the Senate, and Republicans have control of the House.

Looking ahead to the endgame for FY23 and the Future Years Defense Program that will follow, scenarios for DoD spending hinge on several broad factors. These include not only the balance of power in Congress, but also prevailing economic conditions and threat perceptions.

The most likely outcome in the near future is for a bipartisan coalition to increase the president’s FY23 budget request to make up for higher inflation and to advance key modernization goals.

By contrast, the conditions that would support a much lower DoD top line are far less likely to emerge.

Similarly, for the DoD top line to grow to the heights sought by advocates like Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the likely incoming ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, there would need to be a substantial worsening of Sino-U.S. relations, which are already tense.