The American federal government is a vast entity, and its operations and employees span a wide range of different types of work and equipment. The GSA, the General services administration, can supply equipment, vehicles, and personnel for nearly any federal agency that has a contract with it set up, and this may include C4ISR systems for defense contractors (more on that topic later), emergency services and equipment, firearm optics for military or police units, and special operational equipment, or SOE for short. The GSA has many different official “Schedules” for organizing all of this work and its various contracts with different agencies, ranging from desks and papers for office employees to SOE for the military, special forces units, or even the police. SOE contracts can go a long way to keeping American lives safe, and SOE may be one of the more action-oriented types of work that the GSA does. But SOE is not all that the GSA can do; mundane but essential services are provided as well. What might they be?
The GSA Summarized
The General Services Administration is large and multi-faceted, but its general purpose and function can be summarized neatly for those not familiar with it. The GSA is divided with its Schedules program, which is split into about 30 different Schedules, or contracts, that are then sorted by the industries that they provide for. And those Schedules can be divided further into various subcategories, known as Special Item Numbers, or SINs. For one example of htis, the GSA’s Security Schedule is divided into over 100 SINs, or its subcategories. This is a lot of work; in the fiscal year of 2017, government buyers of all kinds spent nearly $1.2 billion through the GSA’s Security Schedule alone, and that is not even counting the many other Schedules that the GSA can offer for its federal contractors. They are varied in nature and purpose alike, some for combat units or firefighters, others for desks jobs or even environmental protection.
A comprehensive list of the GSA’s Schedules would be exhausting, but a few of them can be summarized to serve as examples of how divers the GSA really is. For example, the GSA’s Building and Building Materials Schedule 56 Contract will always provide the federal government with pre-fabricated buildings or any industrial supplies or items that it needs, all of them of a professional grade. Similarly, the GSA can provide more mundane but no less essential materials and services such as furnishing office buildings with desks, computers, chairs, paper, filing cabinets, and more. On top of that, the GSA also provides many different vehicles for government agencies, which may range from trucks and jeeps all the way to fire engines and police or state trooper cruisers. Every year, the GSA procured some 65,000 vehicles for its various contracts, which adds up to nearly $1 billion or so for high-quality vehicles and related automotive services.
Meanwhile, police and firefighting services also have their own contracts for receiving vehicles, supplies, and even uniforms and firearms through the GSA. Firefighters and rescue squads, for example, may need fireproof vests or uniforms, as well as rescue helicopters and fire engines, not to mention fire hoses, gas masks, and oxygen tanks. The police also acquire such hardware as firearm optics, communications gear, and uniforms and even bulletproof vests. And the military and police alike make use of C4ISR system, which stands for Command, Control, Computer, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.
Command and Control is a general term for the central authority of a mission, and which people or individuals make and issue orders and commands to keep a mission organized and effective. Communications is the transmission of useful data between members of a mission, and Computer is just that: the computers, and their hardware and software, that make modern C4ISR effective and competitive for American interests. Intelligence is data gathered for a mission’s purposes, while Surveillance is the tracking and monitoring of activity and communications in friendly or neutral areas. By contrast, Reconnaissance describes the collection of Intelligence in unfriendly or even hostile areas, which can be done by human agents or even robotic, airborne drones.