Internet-Draft rfc8989bis September 2022
Duke Expires 20 March 2023 [Page]
8989 (if approved)
8713 (if approved)
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
M. Duke
Google LLC

Nominating Committee Eligibility


The IETF Nominating Committee (NomCom) appoints candidates to most IETF leadership committee. RFC8713 provides criteria for membership on NomCom that attempt to ensure that NomCom volunteers are members of the loosely defined IETF community, by requiring in-person attendance in three of the past five in- person meetings. In 2020 and 2021, the IETF had six consecutive fully online plenary meetings that drove rapid advancement in remote meeting technologies and procedures, including an experiment that included remote attendance for NomCom eligibility. This document updates RFC8713 by building a new set of eligibility criteria from first principles, with consideration for the increased salience of remote attendance.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 20 March 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

[RFC8713] defines the process for selection of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), IETF Trust, and the IETF LLC Director. These four committees form the senior leadership of the IETF. A key actor in the process is the Nominating Committee (NomCom), which nominates a single candidate for each open position from the pool of volunteers, subject to confirmation by other bodies.

NomCom voting members are themselves volunteers that have met certain eligibility requirements. The actual NomCom is selected at random from the pool of eligible volunteers, with restrictions to ensure that no more than two volunteers with the same primary affiliation are chosen.

Section 4.14 of [RFC8713] requires that volunteers must have attended three of the previous five in-person meetings. In practice, this has meant that the volunteer picked up their registration badge. Current members of the Internet Society Board of Trustees, IETF Trust, LLC Board, IAB, and IESG are ineligible.

[RFC8989] specified an experiment in the wake of six consecutive fully online meetings from 2020 to 2021, where the traditional interpretation of the requirement would have resulted in no eligible volunteers. It extended the attendance requirement to define meeting attendance as including logging in to at least one session of a fully-online IETF meeting.

RFC8989 also created two other tracks to obtain eligibility: (1) serving as a working group chair or secretary in the past 3 years, and (2) author or editor of an IETF Stream RFC in the past five years, including internet-drafts in the RFC Editor queue.

This document discusses some of the first principles that inform the design of NomCom eligibility. It makes recommendations on how the future process should work. Its objective is to eventually replace Section 4.14 of RFC8713 with criteria loosely based on those in RFC8989.

2. Conventions and Definitions

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. NomCom Principles

The NomCom is intended to be composed of randomly selected members of "the community." For many years, in-person attendance was a reasonable proxy for the commitment associated with being a member. Two days of travel and an attendance fee is a relatively large expenditure of time and money. Additionally, in-person attendance is thought to increase personal familiarity with candidates for leadership positions, although there is no mechanism to ensure any interactions. Finally, the NomCom interview process was largely conducted in-person at IETF meetings, so the ability to attend was a prerequisite to participate.

Beyond the principle that the community should govern itself, selecting volunteers with a demonstrated commitment to the organization, while limiting the number from any organization, avoids the potential for mischief via nominations that disrupt IETF operations or work against the interests of the community as a whole.

However, attitudes to business travel evolve, and remote meeting technology continues to improve, to the extent that many longstanding community members choose to participate remotely. The system has always excluded community members due to cost or personal reasons. Further, the NomCom can now fully complete its business using online tools.

Counting remote attendance lowers the barriers to entry. As IETF is committed to having a no-fee remote option ([I-D.draft-ietf-shmoo-remote-fee]), the only required investment is to log on once per meeting at a specific time (sometimes a locally inconvenient hour). While this document does not formally impose a requirement for the NomCom to function entirely remotely, including remote-only attendees in the pool is likely to effectively require a remote component to NomCom operations.

Finally, it is historically difficult to recruit volunteers for NomCom, so overly restrictive criteria work against getting a deep talent pool.

4. Criteria

The following paths to qualification replace Section 4.14 of [RFC8713]. Any one of the paths is sufficient, unless the person is otherwise disqualified under Section 4.15 of [RFC8713].

Path 1: The person has registered for and attended 3 out of the last 5 IETF meetings, either in-person or online. In-person attendance is as determined by the record keeping of the Secretariat. Online attendance is based on being a registered person who logged in for at least one session of an IETF meeting.

Path 2: The person has been a Working Group Chair or Secretary within the 3 years prior to the day the call for NomCom volunteers is sent to the community.

Path 3: The person has been a listed author or editor (on the front page) of at least two IETF Stream RFCs within the last 5 years prior to the day the call for NomCom volunteers is sent to the community. An Internet-Draft that has been approved by the IESG and is in the RFC Editor queue counts the same as a published RFC, with the relevant date being the date the draft was added to the RFC Editor queue. For avoidance of doubt, the 5-year timer extends back to the date 5 years before the date when the call for NomCom volunteers is sent to the community.

5. Available Data

TODO: This document should contain data about how the proposed criteria would have affected eligibility for NomComs in the recent past.

6. Security Considerations

The threat model associated with NomCom eligibility is that an organization or group of organizations would attempt to obtain a majority of NomCom positions, in order to select an IETF leadership in support of an agenda that might be self-serving and against the interests of the community as a whole.

Note that [RFC8713] lets the Chair decide the NomCom voting requirement, so a simple majority may be inadequate. However, 7 of 10 forms a quorum, so at worst seven NomCom members working together can almost certainly impose their will.

Whatever the merits of admitting remote attendees, it reduces the minimum cost of creating a NomCom-eligible volunteer from three flights and ~5 days of travel over the course of a year, to zero financial cost and the time required to log in three times over the course of a year. Some organizations might not be deterred in either case, while others might now find such an attack to be feasible.

6.1. A Surge of Volunteers

A large number of "legitimate" volunteers makes it quite difficult to control 6 of 10 NomCom slots. Setting aside limitations on the number of selections from any organization, basic probability shows that to have even a 50% chance of controlling 6 or more NomCom positions, an attacker needs somewhat roughly 60% of the volunteer pool. For example, if there are 300 "legitimate" volunteers, an attacker must produce 365 volunteers to exceed a 50% chance of NomCom capture (see Appendix A).

A sudden surge in the number of volunteers, particularly of people that no one recognizes as a part of the community is an early-warning system for leadership to further investigate.

While loosening eligibility criteria lowers the cost to an attacker of producing eligible volunteers, it also increases the number of "legitimate" volunteers that increases the difficulty and detectability of an attack.

6.2. The Two-Per-Organization Limit

The two-per-organization limit in [RFC8713] complicates such an attack. To circumvent it, an organization must either (1) coordinate with at least two like-minded organizations to produce a NomCom majority, (2) incentivize members of other organizations (possibly through a funding agreement) to support its agenda, or (3) propose candidates with false affiliations.

While the IETF does not routinely confirm the affiliation of volunteers, as part of an investigation it could eliminate volunteers who have misrepresented said affiliation. Publishing the list of volunteers and affiliations also gives the community an opportunity to review the truth of such claims.

Assuming that 300 legitimate volunteers are all from different organizations, three conspiring organizations would need 771 volunteers (257 per organization) for a 50% chance of NomCom capture (see Appendix A).

6.3. One Year of Participation

Attendance at 3 meetings requires at least 1 year. Given the volume of volunteers necessary to capture the process, an attack requires a surge in attendees over the course of a year. IETF leadership SHOULD analyze unexplained surges in attendance to look for signs of manipulating the eligibility requirements (e.g. logging in to a single session and then immediately logging out). In the event of malfeasance, the leadership would then have months to adjust policy in response before the NomCom cycle begins.

7. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

8. References

8.1. Normative References

Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Kucherawy, M., Ed., Hinden, R., Ed., and J. Livingood, Ed., "IAB, IESG, IETF Trust, and IETF LLC Selection, Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the IETF Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP 10, RFC 8713, DOI 10.17487/RFC8713, , <>.

8.2. Informative References

Kuehlewind, M., Reed, J., and R. Salz, "Open Participation Principle regarding Remote Registration Fee", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-shmoo-remote-fee-03, , <>.
Carpenter, B. and S. Farrell, "Additional Criteria for Nominating Committee Eligibility", RFC 8989, DOI 10.17487/RFC8989, , <>.

Appendix A. NomCom Capture Calculations

Section 6 offers some mathematical results for the probability of NomCom capture. This appendix shows the work.

Let (a ch b) mean the number of combinations of b items chosen from a population of a items, or

(a ch b) = fact(a) / (fact(a-b) * fact(b))

A.1. No per-organization limit

The first computation assumes there is no limit of two per organization, or equivalently, no organization produces more than two volunteers.

Let L be the number of "legitimate" volunteers (i.e. those not allied with an attacker" and A be the number of attacking volunteers. Then there are ((L+A) ch 10) ways to select a NomCom. The number of outcomes where attackers capture the NomCom is

Sum(i=6..10)[(A ch i) * (L ch (10-i)]

and the probability of capture is therefore

Sum(i=6..10)[(A ch i) * (L ch (10-i)] / ((L+A) ch 10).

For L = 300, this probability crosses 50% at A = 365.

A.2. Two per Organization

Assume that the population of L is drawn from L different organizations (this assumption is unfavorable to the attacker). Assume also that there are three conspiring organizations. Then no more than 6 members can be drawn from A.

Let B be the number of nominees per attacking organization, so that A = 3B.

The number of combinations to pick exactly N attackers, N <= 6, is

C(N) = (L ch (10-N)) * Sum(i=0:min(N,2))[(B ch i)Sum(j=0..min(2, N-i))[(B ch j)(B ch min(2, N-i-j))]]

And the probability of capture is

C(6) / Sum(i=0..6)[C(i)]

For L = 300, the A required to exceed a 50% probability of capture is 771.

Appendix B. Change Log

B.1. Since draft-duke-elegy-rfc8989bis-00

  • Editorial suggestions from Luc Andre Burdet

B.2. Since draft-duke-gendispatch-rfc8989bis-00

  • Matched normative section to RFC8989
  • Added security considerations and appendix


TODO acknowledge.

Author's Address

Martin Duke
Google LLC