Colin Powell on Oil Spill: Time for 'Comprehensive, Total Attack' on the Problem

Former secretary of state talks gays in the military, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan.

ByABC News
May 23, 2010, 10:33 AM

May 30, 2010— -- The federal government's response to the BP oil spill "has to move quickly and move with -- to use my favorite expression -- decisive force to demonstrate that it's doing everything that it can," former Secretary of State Colin Powell told ABC News' Jake Tapper on "This Week."

Though the president has been monitoring the oil spill from the very start, Powell said in a Sunday exclusive interview, "that impression was not conveyed to the American people. And the comprehensive speech he gave the other day, I think he would have been better served and the nation would have been better served if he'd given it a few weeks earlier."

The retired general would not say whether the government's response to the spill should be taken over by the military, but added, "Whether it's Army, Coast Guard, local forces, it is time for a comprehensive, total attack on this problem to protect the shoreline, to protect the livestock, to protect the wetlands, but most of all to give the people in that part of our country a sense of hope that this is going to be solved."

In a far ranging interview, Powell also discussed other pressing issues of state and military affairs.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1993, Powell was a guiding force in creating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. But 17 years later, Powell said "it is perfectly acceptable to get rid of the law and the policy."

"The country has changed," Powell said.

But before changing the policy, he said, "we have to hear clearly from the officers and men and women who are in charge of executing that policy.

"At the end of the day," he added, "the law will change and 'don't ask, don't tell' will go away."