Our Mission’s Evolution

GSA was established by President Harry Truman 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.

We are also supporting federal agencies and state and local governments to get the materials and services they urgently need to enhance safety and health in GSA-controlled federal and leased locations in response to COVID-19.

Real Estate

GSA first became involved in building renovation in the 1950s when it headed a major overhaul of the White House, ordered by Truman.

In 1985, GSA began to provide government-wide 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 (IT), regulatory information, and use of federal advisory committees.

In 1994, GSA's Public Building 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 over 500 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. GSA’s 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, GSA 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.

Acquisition Services

GSA took on the critical assignment of emergency preparedness and began stockpiling strategic materials to be used in wartime. GSA 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 (FAS) to better align the delivery of its solutions in an ever-changing business world.

In early 2016, GSA launched the Acquisition Gateway as a way of helping Federal Government buyers from all agencies act as one acquisition community. By September 2016, the Acquisition Gateway surpassed 10,000 registered users.

Also in 2016, GSA launched a series of new programs collectively called the “Making It Easier" (MIE) 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 the 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, GSA introduced the Federal Government to the use of charge cards. Today, the GSA SmartPay program has more than 3 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. GSA assumed responsibility for George W. Bush’s E-Gov Initiatives: E-Authentication, E-Gov Travel, Federal Asset Sales, and the Integrated Award Environment in 2001.

In 2009, a new Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies was created to foster public engagement by using innovative technologies to connect the public to government information and services. As a result, GSA’s social media outreach efforts grew.

In 2010, GSA became the first federal agency to move email to a cloud-based system, which reduced inefficiencies and lowered costs by 50 percent.

In 2013, GSA began managing the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program, which Obama then made a part of GSA 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. GSA also announced the creation of 18F, which consisted of a team of 15 designers, engineers, and product specialists focused on improving the Federal Government’s digital services.GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. GSA consolidated the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Buildings Administration; the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement; and the War Assets Administration into one federal agency tasked with administering supplies and providing workplaces for federal employees.

Last Reviewed: 2021-09-17