12/13/2013 04:35 EST | Updated 02/12/2014 05:59 EST

National Defence to move 8,500 workers to ex-Nortel campus

The federal government is sharing details of a six-year plan to consolidate Department of National Defence headquarters in the capital region, including at the former Nortel campus, while continuing to defend its security.

At a technical briefing for reporters in Ottawa Friday afternoon, senior government officials said their headquarters would be set up in seven major locations in Ottawa-Gatineau by 2020, down from the 47 locations they're working from now.

The complex on Ottawa's Carling Avenue, which was Nortel's main research and development centre until its 2009 bankruptcy, will receive its first 3,300 National Defence employees in late 2015, officials said.

Approximately 8,500 military and civilian employees will work there once the six-year move is complete around the beginning of 2020.

National Defence employs over 14,000 people in the capital region, according to the officials at the briefing.

Long-term savings outweigh moving costs

Officials said many of their current 47 workplaces in the capital region are in commercially leased spaces spread out across both cities.

By the time the consolidation is complete, officials said, there will be three major locations in Ottawa — the Carling Avenue campus, one in the city's downtown (not necessarily the current headquarters behind the Rideau Centre) and one on Star Top Road in the east end.

The other four Gatineau locations will be on Hôtel de Ville Street in the Hull sector, Sacré-Cœur​ Street in the west end, 455 Carrière Blvd. near Casino Lac Leamy and on Cité des Jeunes in the north end.

That does not include the various Canadian Forces reserve, special forces or other facilities around the region, only the headquarters.

These moves will come at a cost of $755 million, breaking down to $208 million for the purchase of the Nortel campus, $506 million for refitting and transition costs of $41 million.

Officials said the move should save more than $750 million over the next 25 years, for the most part from leasing fewer buildings.

Officials said they had been looking for these major locations since 2008. It was announced National Defence would be buying the former Nortel campus in the fall of 2010.

Full security sweep to be done

Officials repeated that bugs or listening devices had not been found in the former Nortel building, as they had said after the Ottawa Citizen published a report that workers preparing for the move had located some.

However, officials said National Defence hasn't swept the building for such devices and is only able to say it hasn't found any from "limited" checks ahead of conferences or meetings held there.

They said they'll make sure the building is safe and secure before the move, but couldn't disclose specific ways of doing so.

A former senior Nortel security adviser told CBC News in October 2012 he believed Chinese telecommunications company Huawei had been hacking into Nortel's systems for a competitive advantage for 10 years.

Officials said it's been widely reported that Nortel had problems with corporate espionage, but reiterated they're taking the "necessary security precautions."