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Nominating Committee Eligibility
RFC 9389 part of BCP 10

Document Type RFC - Best Current Practice (April 2023)
Obsoletes RFC 8788, RFC 8989
Updates RFC 8713
Author Martin Duke
Last updated 2023-04-28
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
IESG Responsible AD Lars Eggert
Send notices to (None)
RFC 9389

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                           M. Duke
Request for Comments: 9389                                    Google LLC
BCP: 10                                                       April 2023
Obsoletes: 8788, 8989                                                   
Updates: 8713                                                           
Category: Best Current Practice                                         
ISSN: 2070-1721

                    Nominating Committee Eligibility


   The IETF Nominating Committee (NomCom) appoints candidates to several
   IETF leadership committees.  RFC 8713 provides criteria for NomCom
   membership that attempt to ensure 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 RFC 8713 by defining a new set of
   eligibility criteria from first principles, with consideration to the
   increased salience of remote attendance.  This document obsoletes
   RFCs 8788 and 8989.

Status of This Memo

   This memo documents an Internet Best Current Practice.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Further information on
   BCPs is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Revised BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of the
   Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as described
   in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
   2.  NomCom Principles
   3.  Criteria
   4.  Security Considerations
     4.1.  NomCom Capture
       4.1.1.  A Surge of Volunteers
       4.1.2.  The Two-per-Organization Limit
       4.1.3.  One Year of Participation
     4.2.  Disruptive Candidates
     4.3.  Additional Remedies
   5.  IANA Considerations
   6.  References
     6.1.  Normative References
     6.2.  Informative References
   Appendix A.  NomCom Capture Calculations
     A.1.  No per-Organization Limit
     A.2.  Two per Organization
   Author's Address

1.  Introduction

   [RFC8713] defines the process for the selection of the Internet
   Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG),
   IETF Trust, and the IETF LLC Directors.  A key actor in the process
   is the Nominating Committee (NomCom), which nominates a single
   candidate for each open position.  Nominations are subject to
   confirmation by other bodies.

   NomCom voting members are randomly selected from a pool of volunteers
   that have met certain eligibility requirements.  Thus, it is
   important that members of the pool be IETF participants likely to
   have knowledge of IETF processes and practices.  There are
   restrictions to ensure that no more than two volunteers with the same
   primary affiliation are chosen.

   Section 4.14 of [RFC8713] requires volunteers to have attended three
   of the previous five meetings.  In practice, this meant that the
   volunteer picked up their registration badge at an in-person meeting.
   Current members of the Internet Society Board of Trustees and bodies
   for which the NomCom nominates members are ineligible.

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

   [RFC8989] also created two other tracks to obtain eligibility: (1)
   serving as a working group chair or secretary in the past three
   years, and (2) being an author or editor of an IETF Stream RFC in the
   past five years, which includes Internet-Drafts in the RFC Editor

   This document discusses some of the first principles that inform the
   design of NomCom eligibility, and makes recommendations on how the
   process of attendance-based qualification should work.

   This document replaces the attendance criteria in the first two
   paragraphs of Section 4.14 of [RFC8713] with the criteria described
   in [RFC8989], and it obsoletes RFC 8989 to clarify that the document
   has been superseded.  All other text in [RFC8713], including the
   other paragraphs of Section 4.14, remains unchanged.

   [RFC8788] established procedures for the 2020-2021 NomCom.  While, by
   definition, [RFC8788] does not apply to future NomComs, this document
   formally obsoletes it.

2.  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 and with the spirit of the IETF, although there
   is no mechanism to ensure any interaction.

   A basic principle of the IETF is that the community should govern
   itself, so volunteers must have a demonstrated commitment to the
   IETF.  Limiting the number of volunteers sponsored by any one
   organization avoids the potential for mischief that disrupts IETF
   operations or works against the interests of the community as a

   A requirement for in-person attendance has always excluded some from
   qualifying for the NomCom.  However, as attitudes to business travel
   evolve and remote meeting technology continues to improve, many
   longstanding community members are choosing to participate remotely
   (due to cost or personal reasons).  In addition, the NomCom has
   completed two cycles using entirely online tools.

   Expanding the attendance requirement to include remote attendance
   lowers the barriers to entry.  As the IETF has historically provided
   a fee-free remote participation option, via waiver or otherwise, 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

   Finally, overly restrictive criteria work against getting a broad
   talent pool.

3.  Criteria

   The following text replaces the first two paragraphs of Section 4.14
   of [RFC8713]:

   |  Members of the IETF community must satisfy the conditions in one
   |  of three paths in order to volunteer.  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 three out of
   |           the last five 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 three 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 five 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 five-year
   |           timer extends back to the date five years before the date
   |           when the call for NomCom volunteers is sent to the
   |           community.

4.  Security Considerations

4.1.  NomCom Capture

   The most potent threat associated with NomCom eligibility is that an
   organization or group of coordinating organizations could 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 NomCom Chair decide the NomCom voting
   requirement, so a simple majority may be inadequate.  However, seven
   of ten 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 in-
   person trips of around five days each over the course of at least
   eight months, to zero financial cost and the time required to log in
   three times over at least eight months.  Some organizations might not
   be deterred in either case, while others might.

4.1.1.  A Surge of Volunteers

   A large number of legitimate volunteers makes it quite difficult to
   control a majority of 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 six or more NomCom
   positions, an attacker needs 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 sign of an attempt at capture.  Anyone with concerns about
   the integrity of the process should bring those concerns to the IESG
   to investigate.  Where needed, the confirming bodies can take action
   to invalidate such candidates as defined in Section 3.7.3 of

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

4.1.2.  The Two-per-Organization Limit

   The two-per-organization limit described in Section 4.17 of [RFC8713]
   complicates such a capture attack.  To circumvent it, an organization
   would have to do one or more of the following:

   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, and/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).

4.1.3.  One Year of Participation

   Attendance at three meetings requires at least eight months of
   waiting.  Given the volume of volunteers necessary to capture the
   process, an attack requires a surge in attendees over the course of a
   year.  Such a surge might trigger a community challenge to the list
   of eligible volunteers, and/or a leadership investigation to detect
   suspicious behavior (e.g., logging in to a single session and then
   immediately logging out).  In the event of abuse of process, the
   leadership would then have months to adjust policy in response before
   the NomCom cycle begins, and/or disqualify candidates.

4.2.  Disruptive Candidates

   Note that counting remote participation towards NomCom eligibility
   allows for a single individual to mount an attack that previously
   required coordination.  By registering for remote attendance to IETF
   meetings using a number of different identities over a year, an
   individual can make each of those identities NomCom eligible and then
   serve under any one of them that is selected for the NomCom.  Once
   selected, an individual could seek to disrupt the process or prevent
   the timely conclusion of its work.  Less severely, an attacker could
   simply improve their chances of being selected for NomCom.

   This attack is much harder to detect or prevent than equivalent
   attacks were previously, as it does not require coordination among
   multiple attendees.  While the attacker cannot be sure of fee waivers
   for some or all of the different identities, the lower cost for
   remote participation also makes this attack more feasible than it
   would have been under prior rules.

   However, the voting member recall procedure in Section 5.7 of
   [RFC8713] exists to allow removal and replacement of disruptive

4.3.  Additional Remedies

   Additional changes to the process to further obstruct attacks against
   the NomCom are beyond the scope of this document.  However, a
   challenge process against volunteers with a suspicious reported
   affiliation, or that might be aliases of a single volunteer, could
   trigger an investigation.

   Similarly, the challenge to the random selection described in
   Section 4.17 of [RFC8713] can explicitly include appeals against the
   data used to qualify the volunteer, rather than the randomization

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

   [RFC8713]  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, February 2020,

6.2.  Informative References

   [RFC8788]  Leiba, B., "Eligibility for the 2020-2021 Nominating
              Committee", BCP 10, RFC 8788, DOI 10.17487/RFC8788, May
              2020, <>.

   [RFC8989]  Carpenter, B. and S. Farrell, "Additional Criteria for
              Nominating Committee Eligibility", RFC 8989,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8989, February 2021,

Appendix A.  NomCom Capture Calculations

   Section 4 offers some mathematical results for the probability of
   NomCom capture.  This appendix shows the work.

   Note that the number of combinations of b items chosen from a
   population of a items is often expressed as

                              ⎛a⎞      a!
                              ⎜ ⎟ = ────────
                              ⎝b⎠   (a-b)!b!

                                  Figure 1

A.1.  No per-Organization Limit

   Appendix A.1 assumes there is no limitation on the number of
   volunteers from a given organization.  Appendix A.2 assumes that no
   single 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 the following ways to select a NomCom:

                                   ⎜   ⎟
                                   ⎝ 10⎠

                                  Figure 2

   The number of outcomes where attackers capture the NomCom is:

                              ╲  ⎡⎛A⎞ ⎛ L  ⎞⎤
                              ╱  ⎢⎜ ⎟ ⎜    ⎟⎥
                              —— ⎣⎝i⎠ ⎝10-i⎠⎦

                                  Figure 3

   Therefore, the probability of capture is

                               10 ⎛A⎞ ⎛ L  ⎞
                               —— ⎜ ⎟ ⎜    ⎟
                               ╲  ⎝i⎠ ⎝10-i⎠
                               ╱  ──────────
                               ——  ⎛L + A⎞
                               i=6 ⎜     ⎟
                                   ⎝  10 ⎠

                                  Figure 4

   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

                       min(N,2)⎡    min(2,N-i)                     ⎤
                          ——   ⎢        ——                         ⎥
              ⎛  L   ⎞    ╲    ⎢⎛B⎞     ╲     ⎛⎛B⎞ ⎛      B      ⎞⎞⎥
       C(N) = ⎜      ⎟    ╱    ⎢⎜ ⎟     ╱     ⎜⎜ ⎟ ⎜             ⎟⎟⎥
              ⎝10 - N⎠    ——   ⎢⎝i⎠     ——    ⎝⎝j⎠ ⎝min(2, N-i-j)⎠⎠⎥
                          i=0  ⎣        j=0                        ⎦

                                  Figure 5

   And the probability of capture is

                                  ╱  C(i)

                                  Figure 6

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


   Brian Carpenter and Stephen Farrell wrote RFC 8989, which provides
   the core of this document.

   Luc André Burdet, Brian Carpenter, and Donald Eastlake provided
   useful editorial suggestions.

Author's Address

   Martin Duke
   Google LLC