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GSA Assists in Coordinated Effort To Transform White House Press Briefing Room

GSA #10374

July 17, 2007
Contact: GSA Public Affairs, (202) 501-1231

Washington, DC – The recent transformation of an historic and world-famous media briefing room into a sleek, high-tech facility involved a coordinated effort by the White House, the U.S. General Services Administration and the White House Correspondents Association.

Renovation of the White House press briefing room, unveiled by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush during a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 11, began in August 2006 when the White House press corps was moved to a specially outfitted facility across the street in the White House Conference Center on Jackson Place.  The temporary facility was built to replicate the layout in the West Wing, complete with the offices for White House staff, the networks and radio stations, the workstations for the print media and the actual Press Briefing room itself.  Eleven months later, the work in the West Wing was completed, and the press corps was moved back to the new state-of-the-art facility. This endeavor was completed with oversight provided by GSA’s National Capital Region. 

Administrator Doan said that the current renovation of the press room resulted from close collaboration and cooperation among several government entities. The Executive Office of the President, the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, and GSA all participated. The upgrade was top-to-bottom, creating a modern, high-tech facility with environmentally-friendly lighting and new briefing room chairs, complete with Internet, phone and power connections. The press room also now has a sophisticated audio system with new microphones mounted in the ceiling, all of which will aid in the presentation of the President’s or the press secretary’s information during briefings.   A new backdrop was developed, complete with two rotating flat television screens and moving panels, allowing a wide range of flexibility for the type of briefing desired.
 
“GSA was pleased to participate in this important joint venture,” said GSA Administrator Lurita Doan. “In fact, this work extends a rich tradition between GSA and the White House that dates back to GSA’s very first days”.

Administrator Doan was referring to the first job awaiting inaugural GSA Administrator Jess Larson in 1949 -- renovation of a White House in such serious disrepair, one inspector of the time said the historic structure was standing “purely from habit.”

Mr. Larson would later recount, “In order to make the White House structurally sound, it was necessary to completely dismantle, and I mean completely dismantle, everything from the White House except the four walls, which were constructed of stone. Everything, except the four walls without a roof, was finally stripped down, and that's where the work started.”

Mr. Larson said that GSA’s predecessor, the old Federal Works Agency, Public Buildings Administration, was well aware of the problem. “Several incidents happened where large chunks of plaster fell off,” he said. “The floors sagged; pipes bent under the shifting, causing leaks; and many other flaws wrought by age and previous renovations came to light.”

Working closely with President Truman and First Lady Bess Truman, Mr. Larson and GSA went to work. Weekly breakfast meetings took place to ensure Truman – GSA’s very important first customer at the time – was satisfied. Truman took an active role, often deciding the placement of power outlets, new walls, and architectural effects. When work was completed in 1952, the White House not only had air-conditioning and a complete facelift.

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Founded in 1949, GSA serves as a centralized procurement and property management agency for the federal government.  GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including 8,300 government-owned or leased buildings and 205,000 vehicles.  GSA helps preserve our past and define our future, as a steward of more than 420 historic properties, and as manager of USA.gov, the official portal to federal government information and services. GSA’s mission to provide superior workplaces, expert technology solutions, acquisition services, purchasing and E-Gov travel solutions and management policies, at best value, allows federal agencies to focus on their core missions.

Did You Know? GSA’s Design Excellence Program is based on the “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture” established 45 years ago by President John F. Kennedy.