Washington declared the oil spill that resulted from last week's sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana a national event as the slick approaches the mainland.
Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department, said the Pentagon would work directly with BP, the operator of Deepwater Horizon, and other industry assets to contain the environmental damage.
"You want to work, I believe, hand in glove with industry here because in some cases they're going to have, you know, greater -- better assets than we would," he said.
Morrell added that top military officials were working closely with the White House to determine the assets required to respond to the emergency.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, joins a series of officials descending Friday on the U.S. Gulf Coast to take part in planning the response.
BP, for its part, said late Thursday that it launched a "significant expansion" of onshore activity in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to prepare for oil reaching the mainland.
"We are doing absolutely everything in our power to eliminate the source of the leak and contain the environmental impact of the spill," maintained BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward.
Oil is leaking from Deepwater Horizon at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day. The plume made landfall Friday on some of the outlying islands in the Gulf of Mexico.