Gen. Colin Powell announced Wednesday he supports the Pentagon's effort to repeal a longstanding ban on gays from openly serving in the military — a clear reversal from his previous position on the "Don't ask, don't tell" law.

Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was enacted in 1993, was instrumental in its creation and implementation. Although he has previously recommended the military "re-evaluate" the now heavily-scrutinized law, his comments on Wednesday mark the first time he has signaled support for such a repeal.


“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” Powell said in a statement.

“I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense [Robert] Gates and Admiral [Michael] Mullen,” he added.

Powell's show of support on Wednesday follows a series of high-profile endorsements in favor of a prompt "Don't ask, don't tell" repeal.

Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that a repeal was "the right thing to do." At the same time, Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC that the White House planned to wipe that policy by the year's end. And both of those important assurances arrive on the heels of President Barack Obama's promise during his State of the Union address to work with lawmakers this year in pursuit of a repeal.

To do so, Mullen and Gates announced Tuesday they would launch a sweeping review of military personnel policy, primarily to assess a repeal's effects on the force. Some Republicans, including Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.), sharply criticized that approach, stressing a repeal was inappropriate during a time of war.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon's review might take up to a year, Mullen and Gates told the Armed Services panel. Consequently, that deadline that could conflict with the White House's hopes of instituting a repeal by the end of 2010.