updated 5/22/2009 12:51:57 PM ET 2009-05-22T16:51:57

The Pentagon wants more time before the ban on gays serving openly in the military is reversed.

A senior military official said that while President Barack Obama has been clear that he wants to repeal the Clinton-era policy of "don't ask, don't tell," there is no specific timeline to do it. The official says that leaves room that the military wants to use to make sure the eventual change goes well.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the Pentagon has not begun formal planning for the repeal. There is a concern the repeal could set off a polarizing debate, an official said. And that, the official said, runs the risk of placing an overstretched fighting force in the middle of a divisive policy fight.

Still, the official said the military expects the ban eventually will be repealed.

Recent polls indicate the ban and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy are losing support.

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