Canada’s Ministry of National Defence is an enormous operation, the largest in the federal government. In addition to more than 90,000 soldiers, sailors and aircrew, there are roughly 29,000 civilian staff working to support the military. Many of these uniformed personnel and civil servants occupy the nearly 40-year-old Major-General George R. Pearkes Building (known simply as National Defence Headquarters) in downtown Ottawa.
National Defence Headquarters is filled to capacity. Defence Department employees are now scattered across the Ottawa region, leading to inefficiencies – and security risks, given the sensitivity of much of the work that is done. In 2010, the federal government paid $208-million to purchase a large office complex once owned by Nortel Networks Corporation to serve as a new National Defence headquarters. The complex offers the advantages of more space, more modern communications infrastructure and easier-to-manage security requirements. It will see National Defence’s operations in the Ottawa region reduced from a remarkable 48 separate facilities to seven, perhaps fewer.