"I tend to believe that the promise of a future when it is going to be convenient is a promise that we can't really wait for," Cartwright said.
His position differs from that of some other service leaders, including the chief of staff of the Army and the commandant of the Marine Corps. Instead, Cartwright echoed the statements of Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Cartwright stressed that all the service chiefs agree that repeal of DADT can be implemented. The challenge is to implement the change in a way least disruptive to combat operations, through normal training rotations, he said.
He also addressed the recent WikiLeaks controversy, saying the release of classified State Department cables could be a setback for information sharing.
In recent years, military leaders may have erred on the side of sharing too much information among the services and with allies because doing so benefits American troops in combat.
"Our competitive advantage on the battlefield is getting as much knowledge to the edge as you can," Cartwright said, because on any given day, it's impossible to predict what troops will need to know.
But decisions about what information, and how much information, to share will have to be reweighed in light of WikiLeaks.
It's "absolutely necessary to maintain [a] competitive advantage," Cartwright said, but also to make sure "we don't do anything stupid."
This story has been updated to correct quotes.