At least two Canadian military bases faced severe communications failures this summer as the Department of National Defence switched service providers, the Canadian Press has learned.

Both Canadian Forces Station Aldergrove, B.C., and Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg experienced the outages shortly after changing over its internal communications network from a system provided by Bell to one from Telus, according leaked critical incident reports.

"Migration created a conflict in the network which would have taken down the entire national and potentially the international data networks carrying all DND [Internet Protocol] applications, including search and rescue, intelligence and [human resources] data," said a summary of the outage at CFS Aldergrove, the navy's primary signal relay base east of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.

That breakdown happened in June.

A similar outage struck CFB Winnipeg this month and lasted at least six days, according to the document.

The Manitoba base is home to the 1st Canadian Air Division as well as Canada's North American air defence (NORAD) headquarters.

DND downplays incidents

DND officials declined to be interviewed, but did e-mail a statement downplaying the incidents, describing what happened at Aldergrove as "a minor technical issue that was easily resolved."

The e-mail, from Lt. Sebastien Monger, said the "lack of interconnection did not have any impact on the network services."

The e-mail also said that National Defence does not expect any further trouble in the transition, aside from the "usual interruption of service when a service is changed over from one carrier to another."

An official with Telus Corp. did return calls, but declined comment, saying the terms of its contract with the federal government don't allow the company to respond."

Telus, a Canadian communications giant with 5.8 million wireless customers and 1.2 million internet subscribers, was awarded the $213-million Global Defence Network Services contract by Public Works Canada in June 2007.

Under the agreement, the Burnaby, B.C.-based company is expected to provide managed telephone, wireless, data, video and IP services to the DND for five years.

The contract covers both the open and secure military networks.