The Navy sent equipment to help with cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Pentagon said Thursday it stands ready to expand its response to the disaster.
Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez said that trucks carrying 66,000 feet of inflatable boom and seven skimming systems have begun arriving at the Navy base in Gulfport, Miss.
The help is being provided under an existing pollution cleanup agreement between the Navy and Coast Guard. Booms are commonly used as a floating barrier or fence to control the movement of spills in bodies of water.
The Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida is in use as a staging area for more booms, recovery barges, tractor trailers, pumps and other related equipment used by Coast Guard contractors, Vasquez said.
He was unaware of any military personnel who might be sent to help with the cleanup.
The White House has asked the Defense Department to discuss possible additional requests. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the military is assessing how it might help and what resources could be deployed. He did not say how long that might take.
"There is a full-blown effort within this department to try to find the kinds of things that could be helpful," Morrell said.
He said the federal response is far wider than the Pentagon and should involve a close partnership with the energy industry. For example, he said, industrial research on submersible vehicles that can operate at great depth outpaces the military's.
Morrell said the focus of military efforts now is on helping to contain the spill at sea, but that the Pentagon would be ready to offer other kinds of help should the spill reach shore. He would not speculate on what that additional assistance might include, but one possibility would be an influx of U.S. troops to help with shoreline cleanup.
Northrop Grumman, a major defense contractor that operates in the region, said Thursday it would put an oil boom around its entire west bank facility in Pascagoula, Miss., to protect its assets.
The company also said it would set up a 24-hour watch to monitor the spill.
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