Admiral Mike Mullen used the word “change” to describe President Obama's position on repeal of the military's ban on open gay service.

At a National Press Club address Wednesday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Obama would like to “change” the military gay ban, also known as “don't ask, don't tell,” which prescribes discharge for gay service members who do not remain celibate or closeted.

“I'm not a policy guy,” Mullen says about the policy, then adds that Obama's “strategic intent is to change this policy and this will take a change in the law.”

Recently, the White House has also backed off from using the word repeal when discussing “don't ask, don't tell.”

In May, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “To get fundamental reform in this instance requires a legislative vehicle. The president made a promise to change the policy; he will work with the Joints Chief of Staff, the administration and with Congress to ensure that we have a policy that works for our national interests.”

But shortly before the president's inauguration, when asked if Obama would repeal the law, Gibbs responded: “You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's yes.”

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates chimed in on the “change” conundrum when he said that the Pentagon was looking into ways to make its ban on open gay service “more humane.”

Gates questioned the need to take action against service members when they've been outed out of vengeance or after being jilted.

“If someone is outed by a third party … does that force us to take an action?” he asked.

“That's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed,” Gates added.

Despite Obama's promise to repeal the policy, 289 gay and lesbian soldiers have been discharged on Obama's watch, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that lobbies for repeal. And the increasingly liberal use of the word “change” over “repeal” puts Obama's commitment to full repeal into question.