The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) was established on July 1, 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act into law.
The agency was created at the recommendation of the Hoover Commission, chaired by former President Herbert Hoover. The commission had studied ways to improve the administrative services of the federal government and concluded that it would be more effective and economical for the government to consolidate small agencies into one to avoid "senseless duplication, excess cost, and confusion in handling supplies, and providing space." The agencies were the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency with its Public Buildings Administration, the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement from the Treasury Department, and the War Assets Administration.
GSA formed these three services to handle its consolidated responsibilities: Public Buildings, Federal Supply, and National Archives and Records.
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, like hemp plantations in South America.
GSA has evolved through the years, gaining and losing functions as the role of the federal government changed and technology has improved.
1954: Established the first federal motor pool.
1957: Used the term "telecommunications system" for the first time to describe telephone service.
1959: Played a significant role in establishing the Federal Procurement Regulation System.
1960: Created the Federal Telecommunications System, a governmentwide inter-city telephone system.
1962: An Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space recommended to President Kennedy that a major building program be undertaken to address obsolete office buildings in Washington, DC. This resulted in the construction of many of the federal office buildings that now line Independence Avenue in the nation's capital. The Fine Arts in Federal Buildings Program was established as a result of the committee’s recommendations.
1970: Created the Consumer Information Center (now the Federal Citizen Information center) famous for its Pueblo, CO distribution center. The center distributes millions of consumer information brochures and answers millions of telephone calls and emails from citizens each year.
1972: Established the Automated Data and Telecommunications Service. This operation evolved into the Federal Technology Service.
1972: Started the Federal Buildings Fund (FBF) as a revolving fund to construct, maintain, operate, and renovate federal buildings. Revenues deposited into the fund come from the rental income paid to GSA by other federal tenants.
1973: Created the Office of Federal Management Policy when GSA was asked to take a greater policy-making role.
1978: Centralized the federal government’s procurement policy in the Office of Acquisition Policy.
1979: Transferred emergency management functions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
1984: Introduced the federal government to charge cards for official expenses.
1985: Began to provide governmentwide policy oversight and guidance for federal real property management as a result of an Executive Order signed by President Reagan.
1985: The National Archives and Records Administration became a separate independent agency.
1987: Opened its first child care center in 1987 and today operates more than 110 across the country.
1988: Transferred the strategic stockpile of war supplies to the Department of Defense.
1995: Formed Courthouse Management Group to manage the largest courthouse construction project in 50 years.
1995: Merged all of GSA's policy functions in the Office of Governmentwide Policy.
1996: Introduced its GSA employees to the Internet and intranet and spurred the development of electronic commerce through GSA Advantage!™
2000: Created FirstGov.gov, the U.S. government’s official web portal. (Renamed USA.gov in 2007)
2001: Assumed responsibility for five of President Bush’s E-Gov Initiatives: E-Authentication, E-Travel, Federal Asset Sales, Integrated Acquisition Environment, and USA Services.
2002: Consolidated all of GSA’s citizen-centered activities into a single organization, the Office of Citizen Services and Communications. The office provides access to information in whatever medium citizens prefer—the Internet, email, telephone, fax or print.
2004: Established the Office of Chief Acquisition Officer.
2005: Established the Federal Acquisition Service by consolidation of GSA Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service.