Fortyfour theme is a work in progress.
Our vision is for Fortyfour to become a starter theme for White House sites to encourage reusability of existing design assets and code and to provide a consistent look and feel across sites. Sites should be able to easily reuse generic designs and layouts provided by Fortyfour. Sites can also subtheme Fortyfour to implement designs without starting from scratch.
Fortyfour is not a working, stand-alone theme yet. It's more of a proof-of-concept. A few themes in active development at the White House (like Petitions44) are working to "back into" using Fortyfour as a basetheme, moving site-specific markup and logic out of template files (e.g. page.tpl.php) into theme functions and preprocessors. Then, where possible, we are moving template files out of site specific themes and into Fortyfour. Ideally, we will have site-specific subthemes like Petitions44 inheriting most (or all) templates from Fortyfour. Then the site-specific themes will simply (1) choose from among available regions in Fortyfour, (2) include some custom CSS and graphics, and (3) implement their own preprocessors in template.php as needed.
Fortyfour includes a few "superheader" and "superfooter" type elements. By default these elements include static markup from whitehouse.gov. These are included to make sites look like "subsites" of whitehouse.gov. They can all be easily enabled or disabled on the Fortyfour theme settings page (and on settings pages of subthemes of Fortyfour). To override any of these elements, copy and paste the corresponding template file(s) into your own subtheme:
Fortyfour is a subtheme of Zen 5. You can subtheme Fortyfour the same way you would create a subtheme of Zen. Just declare fortyfour as the base theme in your theme's info file (base theme = fortyfour). The rest is the same as building a theme with Zen.
Download Zen here.