The General Services Administration (GSA) is a central management agency of the U.S. government. It is charged with setting policy for and providing management of government property and records including construction and operation of buildings; procurement and distribution of supplies; utilization and disposal of real and personal property; and management of transportation, traffic, and communications. The GSA employed 14,526 people as of 1997 and has an annual budget of nearly $13 billion. The various functions of the GSA, which was established under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, are organized into three levels of operation: the central office, regional offices, and field activities. Simply stated, the GSA serves as a business agent for the federal government, with much of its work performed by three services: the Public Buildings Service, the Federal Supply Service, and the Federal Technology Service.

One of the largest responsibilities of the GSA is maintaining government controlled buildings, including office structures, warehouses, and laboratories. These buildings are managed by the GSA's Public Buildings Service (PBS), which acts as a "builder, developer, lessor, and manager of properties," both owned and leased by the federal government. The PBS, as the government's real estate manager, is responsible for real estate brokerage, property management, construction and repairs, security, property disposal, and portfolio management. With a staff of approximately 8,000 the PBS serves as a landlord for 100 federal agencies and more than one million federal workers. PBS oversees 255 million square feet of office space in 8,329 buildings, 6,421 of which are leased from the private sector. Leasing arrangements have been enhanced by the introduction of the "Can't Beat GSA Leasing" program. Run by 700 PBS employees, this program seeks to make the PBS operate more as a private corporation and less as a government bureaucracy. The mission of the PBS is to "improve the effectiveness of the Federal Government by ensuring quality work environments for its employees."

The Federal Supply Service (FSS) is responsible for operating a global supply system for the federal government that handles $14 billion annually in commercial goods and services. Over 4 million items are on their procurement list including everything from automobiles to pencils, and from paint to software and hardware. The FSS is also responsible for such services as transportation and travel management, audits, and programs for the transfer or sale of federal property. Its Interagency Fleet Management System is responsible for the approximately 150,000 automobiles, buses, trucks, and other vehicles used by federal agencies.

The Federal Technology Service (formerly the Federal Telecommunications Service) provides federal employees with information technology through telecommunication services, information technology systems, consulting services, information security services and products, integrated technology solutions, and the attendant hardware and software. Included is global voice, data, and video services as well as federal calling cards and long distance telephone service for 1.7 million federal employees.

Another important part of the GSA is the Office of Government Policy (OGP). Created in 1995 this agency consolidates and centralizes all of the GSA's policy-making activities. The OGP oversees GSA strategies for acquiring an annual $200 billion in goods and services as well as for spending $8 billion annually on government travel and tens of billions of dollars on administrative management systems.

On an annual basis the GSA contracts for $40 billion in goods and services from the private sector. Contracts for these goods and services are advertised, awarded, and managed from GSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and regional contracting offices. Many of these goods and services come from small businesses and minority and women-owned firms, the contracts for which are administered by the Office of Enterprise Development.

[ Michael Knes ]


U.S. General Services Administration. "Doing Business with the GSA." Washington: U.S. General Services Administration, 1996.

U.S. General Services Administration. "General Services Administration." Washington: General Services Administration, 1997. Available from .

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