To some, the topic is synonymous with the nation's commitment to those who serve and sacrifice on its behalf. Others see military pay and benefits surpassing civilian wages and question whether they're too generous, especially as Congress grapples with reductions in defense spending. It's an emotional issue, especially in Hampton Roads, where military pay drives the economy.
Service members give up a lot to serve in the armed forces. They can readily be placed in harm's way and often spend months at a time away from their families, said retired Vice Adm. Pete Daly of the U.S. Naval Institute.
"You give up a lot of freedoms," Daly said. "They own you. You go where you are told to go. That's a very difficult part to quantify in pay. What's the value in that?"
Advocates on both sides have legitimate arguments, and a Pentagon proposal that includes capping pay raises, cutting 5 percent from housing allowances and overhauling military health insurance has met with resistance from lawmakers.