The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is the federal government’s “workplace solutions provider.” It aims to leverage its enormous buying power to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and enhance flexibility and convenience for both federal agencies and their customers. Through its two largest offices—the Federal Acquisition Service and the Public Buildings Service (PBS)—GSA facilitates the purchase of high-quality, low-cost goods and services from commercial vendors and is responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of thousands of federally owned workplaces occupied by 1.1 million civilian employees of 60 different agencies. It owns or leases more than 370 million square feet of office space in 9,624 buildings (including 478 historic buildings and 12 national historic landmarks), making it the largest commercial real estate agency in the nation. In addition to office buildings, GSA’s portfolio includes land ports of entry, federal courthouses, laboratories, warehouses and data centers. GSA also helps other federal agencies dispose of unneeded properties, which have included vacant land, homes, commercial buildings, warehouses and even historic lighthouses.
GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. Its original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. Its first major public building project, completed in 1952, was the complete renovation and rebuilding of the White House. Today, GSA employs about 12,000 federal workers, based in Washington, D.C., and 11 regional offices, and has an annual operating budget of roughly $26.3 billion.
As the landlord for the civilian federal government, PBS’s mission is “to provide superior workplaces for federal customer agencies at good economies to the American taxpayer.” PBS is funded primarily through the Federal Buildings Fund, which is supported by rent from federal customer agencies. In addition to its design, construction and leasing activities, current PBS initiatives include promoting innovative workplace solutions, acting as a green proving ground, supporting the development of urban communities , managing federal property disposal, providing space for more than 100 child care centers, commissioning artwork for new federal buildings, supporting sustainable design initiatives and preserving historically significant buildings.
In 2010, GSA began modernizing its 60-year-old headquarters building at 1800 F Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., as a model of sustainability and government efficiency. The project was divided into two phases; the first phase, which is still incomplete, has renovated much of the existing 700,000-square foot building at a cost of about $162 million. Phase 2, which would have added more than 105,000 square feet of space, was abandoned—at least temporarily—last year as the result of severe budget cuts. Indeed, budget cuts over the last two years have forced GSA to postpone or cancel projects across the country.