Boom goes the Internet


The State Department has awarded at least $1,591,848 to a company called Advanced C4 Solutions Inc., or AC4S.
But the contract has nothing to do with C-4, the plastic explosive.
It’s linked to another kind of C4: Command, control, communications and computers.
Spending records give few details about the contract. The company’s name is redacted in some documents.

Screenshot of spending record

The money was drawn from the State Department’s Economic Support Fund from 2014 to 2017 and appropriated to the president.
The initial work called for “computer systems design services.” Later work was described as “US Interest (USINT) Internet Centers” and was scheduled to end by Sept. 26, 2019.
That work may be related to the Information Resource Center, or IRC, that is located at the U.S. Interests Section, now called the U.S. Embassy.
According to a July 2007 Office of Inspector General’s report:

Outreach is a second major focus of U.S. public diplomacy in Cuba, and the Information Resource Center (IRC) is the nexus. The IRC facility is located on the ground floor of the USINT building, which is monitored by a heavy police presence – a disincentive to some would-be visitors. A sizable number of people nonetheless use the cramped IRC facility on a regular basis.
The 23 Internet terminals available for public use are great draws for the public in a country where just one percent of the population is wired into the larger world, the lowest Internet connectivity in our hemisphere. Twenty-five close embassy con­tacts have permanent passes for Internet access, and 200 two-hour slots per week are available to other interested parties on a first-come, first-serve basis. The IRC net­work functions slowly due to bandwidth constraints: the system was initially designed for 10 terminals. PAS is actively seeking to upgrade system performance.

The OIG had recommended that the Interests Section upgrade its public Internet system.

A May 2014 Inspector General’s report again referred to the IRC:

USINT personnel believe that Cubans value the free uncensored Internet access more than any other service of the mission that the Information Resource Center (IRC) provides, except a U.S. visa. Internet access is rare in Cuba, limited to probably less than 5 percent of the population. The OIG team observed enthusiasm for the IRC Internet program first hand. Cuban users sign up for 90-minute blocks of time at a computer. The center’s work stations were in constant use throughout the inspection.
The IRC operation, including a distance learning center staffed by public diplomacy personnel, is spread across three areas of the building, all of them substandard and rundown. One center is located in the consular waiting room, where IRC patrons can overhear interviews of visa applicants. The mission has identified a potential solution that would move the center to another space, ease congestion in the consular waiting room, and provide a venue where IRC patrons can concentrate, making efficient use of their 90 minutes at the computer. Longer term, the mission will have to bring the IRC operation into a single space with adequate infrastructure. This will improve staff efficiency, simplify administration, and enhance the users’ experience. In any future scenario, the resources of the IRC will continue to be a major asset of the mission, and the demand for them will continue to increase.

The State Department, along with the U.S. military and U.S. Special Operations Command, gave AC4S a total of $237,929,934 from 2008 to 2018, records show. See graphic.
The company has offices in Tampa, Florida; Arlington, Virginia; and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

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