Petraeus offers first public support for change to 'Don't ask'

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Tuesday that the time has come to consider changing the controversial law barring openly gay from people serving in the U.S. military.

It was the general’s most direct answer to date on the issue. A few weeks ago on NBC's "Meet the Press," Petraeus did not answer a question about his position on the repeal, but said he would provide his opinion on Capitol Hill if asked. Petraeus said on the program that he supported the review process and that he had served in combat situations with gays and lesbians.

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At Tuesday's hearing, Petraeus cautioned that the change to the Clinton-era law should be done in a “thoughtful manner” and should not be rendered prior to making assessments on how a change would affect recruiting, retention, morale and cohesion within the military services.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has initiated a one-year Pentagon-wide review of implementing the repeal of the law commonly known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  That review is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had an eight-minute-long prepared statement on his position regarding the repeal of the ban.

“This is not a sound-bite issue,” Petraeus said.

Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) did not allow Petraeus to deliver his statement after ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked the general whether he believed thorough review was necessary before “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed. Levin’s reason: The committee rule on Tuesday was only a six-minute round of questions and answers for each senator.