After several delays, the Department of National Defence will soon be relocating the first of some 8,500 employees to their new headquarters at the former Nortel Networks campus in Ottawa's west end.
CBC News got an exclusive tour this week of the Carling Avenue campus, which government officials say will be ready for employees in January.
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The plan is to begin moving DND workers to the site on Jan. 9, with approximately 150 people arriving each week, said Daniel Godbout, DND's director general of headquarters transformation.
"Some people are looking forward to come and work in this fantastic place," said Godbout. "Other people will find it a little hard. And we understand."
Public Services and Procurement Canada bought the Nortel Networks headquarters in 2010 for $208 million.
The 15-hectare campus, which consists of 11 interconnected buildings, will house approximately 8,500 military and civilian employees once the move is complete.
This will be one of the largest office moves ever completed in Canada. - Department of National Defence brief
The transition is part of a six-year plan to consolidate DND headquarters in seven major locations in Ottawa-Gatineau by 2020, down from 47 locations.
"The budget for the refit of the Carling campus has been established at $506 million and transitional costs (i.e cost of operating the Carling campus until it is occupied) have been estimated at $77 million," according to a DND brief.
When the consolidation is completed, there will be three major locations in Ottawa — the Carling Avenue campus, one in the city's downtown and one on Star Top Road in the east end.
"This will be one of the largest office moves ever completed in Canada and will require over 56 weeks of personnel moves spread out over three years," said the brief.
DND employs more than 14,000 people in the capital region.
Ensuring the site's security
There have been questions about the new site's security, however, particularly since hackers based in China gained access to Nortel's computer network in 2012.
Chinese hackers likely had unrestricted access to the former telecommunications giant as far back as 2000, according to a former Nortel employee who launched an internal investigation of the attacks and spoke to the Wall Street Journal that year.
They "had access to everything," Brian Shields said at the time. "They had plenty of time. All they had to do was figure out what they wanted."
Over the years, the hackers downloaded business plans, research and development reports, employee emails and other documents.
As a security precaution, all of the cables and wires that were previously inside the Carling Avenue location have been stripped away, Lt.-Cmdr. Diane Glover told CBC News on Friday.
The former Nortel campus will house army, navy and air force personnel, said Glover, along with civilian workers responsible for "corporate functions" like human resources and policymaking.
"It has been referred to as 'Pentagon North,' indeed. And that's a fitting attribution," said Glover.
"As soon as I set foot on the campus, there's an energy. There's a vitality."