POWELL: Things have changed. That was 17 years ago. And you'll notice that we were uniform in our opinion. All of the chiefs were -- were speaking and sitting next to me. It was the secretary of defense, Les Aspin, who also felt the same way.
TAPPER: Democratic administration.
POWELL: Democratic administration. And the compromise we came up with was "don't ask/don't tell." There were worst options -- there were worse options that were being considered at that time, total ban. The compromise was, if you want to serve, keep your sexuality, the identification of your sexuality to yourself.
TAPPER: Where are we today?
POWELL: And today we've changed. The country has changed. I think we are at a point now where the policy -- which is not a policy, it's a law -- should have been reviewed. It's been reviewed. And I have always believed -- and I said this many times recently -- that you ultimately have to listen to the military authorities and what they think is good for the force and whether or not the force is prepared to handle this.
I think that the position taken by Mr. Gates, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen, and the chiefs was a sound one: Let's study this. Let's accept that it's a decision. The president said we're going to do it. It's a decision. And the Congress has to pass the law to allow that. And so let's take the time to make the study, see what the implications are.
Congress has decided recently -- not a done deal yet, because the Senate hasn't acted -- that we should pass the law repealing "don't ask/don't tell," but not put it into effect until these studies have been made and the military has certified.
But I think, at the end of the day, the law will change and "don't ask/don't tell" will go away. But don't underestimate some of the issues that we dealt with in 1993 and that we're dealing with now.
I think it would have been far more difficult to do it in 1993 than it is today with the open attitudes, but there are issues of same-sex marriage, there are issues of domestic partnerships, there are issues of billeting, and that's what this study is going to work its way through, not for a way -- not to find a way to not accept the judgment of the president and the Congress, but how do we actually implement this in a way that strengthens the force?
But I think it will happen, and I think the military leaders are speaking out on this, and they're not all uniformly of the same view, but they will execute this, and they'll execute it like they execute everything else they're -- they're given as a mission. They'll do it well.
TAPPER: Are you personally in favor of it?
POWELL: I'm personally of the view now that attitudes have changed and I think it is perfectly acceptable to get rid of the law and the policy, but I think before we actually do it, we have to hear clearly from the officers and men and women who are in charge of executing that policy.
It's one thing to sit here in Washington, D.C., and say, "It's no problem. Do away with it." I think it's important to listen to the troops who are affected and take into account the views of the senior leadership and military leadership of the armed forces.