Our mission’s evolution
Former President Harry Truman established GSA on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. GSA consolidated the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency, the Public Buildings Administration, the Bureau of Federal Supply, the Office of Contract Settlement, and the War Assets Administration into one federal agency tasked with administering supplies and providing workplaces for federal employees.
GSA’s original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. GSA also regulated the sale of various office supplies to federal agencies and managed some unusual operations, such as hemp plantations in South America.
Today our mission has evolved to provide stewardship of the way the government uses and provides real estate, acquisition services, and technology. Through our Public Buildings Service, Federal Acquisition Service, and various staff offices, we provide workspace to more than 1 million federal civilian workers, oversee the preservation of more than 480 historic buildings, and facilitate the federal government's purchase of high-quality, low-cost goods and services from reliable commercial vendors.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we supported federal agencies as well as state and local governments to get materials and services urgently needed to enhance safety and health in GSA-controlled federal and leased locations.
GSA first became involved in building renovation in the 1950s when it headed a major overhaul of the White House, which Truman ordered.
In 1985, we began to provide governmentwide policy oversight and guidance for federal real property management. By 1995, all of GSA's policy functions had been merged into the Office of Government-wide Policy, which sets policy in the areas of personal and real property, travel, transportation, information technology, regulatory information, and use of federal advisory committees.
In 1994, the Public Buildings Service introduced the Design Excellence Program to streamline the way it selects architects and engineers for major construction projects of federal clients.
In the 2010s, GSA completed work on more than 500 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The ARRA program covered a variety of work aimed at transforming federal buildings into high-performing buildings, including mechanical upgrades, new lighting, window replacements, “cool” roofs, water-saving fixtures, on-site renewable energy, and necessary repairs.
In 2013, we launched the Total Workplace initiative to create a 21st-century workplace throughout the federal government which provided resources and expertise to help federal agencies reduce office space, foster collaboration, better manage IT spending, and increase energy efficiency.
GSA took on the critical assignment of emergency preparedness and began stockpiling strategic materials to be used in wartime. We retained various emergency management functions until they were transferred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1979.
In 2007, GSA consolidated the Federal Telecommunication Service into the Federal Acquisition Service to better align the delivery of our solutions in an ever-changing business world.
In early 2016, we launched the Acquisition Gateway to help federal government buyers from all agencies act as one acquisition community. By September that year, the Acquisition Gateway surpassed 10,000 registered users.
Also in 2016, we launched a series of new programs collectively called the “Making It Easier” initiative. MIE provides tools and support to both small businesses and new and innovative companies to assist them in doing business with the government. Programs include the MAS Offer Guide, Welcome Package, FASt Lane, Information Technology Category Startup Springboard, and Forecast Tool.
Further bolstering the U.S. government’s innovation infrastructure, GSA created the Technology Transformation Services (a part of FAS) in 2017, which helps agencies navigate how to build, buy, and share user-centered and emerging technology solutions.
In 1960, GSA created the Federal Telecommunications System, a governmentwide intercity telephone system. Then, in 1984, we introduced the federal government to the use of charge cards. Today, the GSA SmartPay program has more than three million cardholders.
As the agency transformed itself to enter the 21st century, GSA embraced new technologies, launched electronic government initiatives, and helped develop means of doing government business on the internet. We assumed responsibility for Former President George W. Bush’s E-Gov Initiatives: E-Authentication, E-Gov Travel, Federal Asset Sales, and the Integrated Award Environment in 2001.
In 2009, we created a new Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies to foster public engagement by using innovative technologies to connect the public to government information and services. As a result, our social media outreach efforts grew. In 2010, we became the first federal agency to move email to a cloud-based system, which reduced inefficiencies and lowered costs by 50%.
In 2013, we began managing the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which Former President Barack Obama then made a part of our agency in 2015. The highly competitive program pairs talented, diverse technologists and innovators with top civil servants and change-makers working at the highest levels of the federal government to tackle some of our nation’s biggest challenges. We also announced the creation of 18F, a team of 15 designers, engineers, and product specialists focused on improving the federal government’s digital services.