OTTAWA — The federal government is putting off its new secure computer network for another year, with Ottawa’s IT department claiming strained resources and security delays.
Internal briefing notes obtained by the Star show that Shared Services Canada has delayed its new Secure Channel Network (SCNet) replacement project to at least July, possibly later.
The project, which would switch federal departments and agencies over to a unified secure network, had an original deadline of December 2013.
In the documents, the federal IT department blames strains on its resources, delayed contract awards and issues with the federal network security services.
“Only one option exists to (Shared Services), which is to extend the SCNet (project) contract to Dec. 31, 2015,” the briefing note reads.
The original SCNet project involved consolidating a number of the federal government’s network connections into one. It was hoped that this would improve the security of government communications and information.
Shared Services sought to replace SCNet with an altogether new network. That’s because the original network included a mishmash of contracts and security services inherited by the department when it was created in 2011.
But the mammoth IT department has apparently been met with opposition from certain departments and agencies. The Ottawa Citizen reported last July that some federal organizations — notably science, research and defence agencies — were “very cautious” about joining the new security initiative.
That hesitation made headlines during the fallout of an alleged China-backed hack of the National Research Council. The breach was sufficiently serious for the federal research organization to temporarily shut down its network, which had been isolated from the rest of the government’s systems.
Around the same time, federal bureaucrats warned that some government organizations lack sufficient network security to repel cyberattacks, according to internal documents reported by the Toronto Star.
In those documents, officials urged Ottawa to develop a more coherent plan to address large-scale cyberattacks, such as the National Research Council hack.
The Star requested an interview with Shared Services. That request was declined.
In a written statement, the IT department said the government’s network remains secure and the delay in the SCNet replacement project will not cost taxpayers more money.
“(Shared Services) is taking the time necessary to define the right requirements to ensure that those goals of finding savings and increasing security are met,” wrote Shared Services spokeswoman Marie-Hélène Rouillard.
“While a project with this level of complexity can be expected to have challenges, (Shared Services) continues to move it forward.”