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IAB Response to “Some IESG Thoughts on Liaisons”

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Dear IESG,

The IAB has discussed "Some IESG Thoughts on Liaisons" (posted at both
at the 2011 IAB retreat and afterwards. Here are the IAB's reflections
on the IESG's thoughts.

We recognize that we have sitting ADs serving as liaison managers for
several SDOs, including key SDOs such as ITU-T. In large part, this is
because appointed liaison managers were subsequently selected as ADs,
and were not replaced.

We recognize that this can be awkward for everyone involved. As a
result, based on the IESG guidance, we will consider replacing the liaison
managers for the following SDOs: 3GPP, CableLabs, ITU-T MPLS, and ITU-T
SG15 Optical Control Plane.   At present, we do not appear to require an
ongoing liaison to IEEE 802.3, so the proposal is to eliminate that
liaison manager position.

Beyond this, we make the following observations:

The case for avoiding appointment of working group chairs as liaison
managers (or replacing existing liaisons who are also working group
chairs) is less clear-cut. Since the role of a working group chair
within the IETF includes less discretion than the role of an AD, covers
a smaller scope, and is subject to much more oversight than the role of
an AD, the potential for conflict with respect to the appeals chain is
less for a working group chair than an AD. Currently about half the IETF
liaison managers are chairs of at least one working group, so that
disqualification of working group chairs would result in a large
turnover among the liaison managers.

Therefore in thinking about the appointment of liaison managers, the IAB
believes that it is best to consider the individual circumstances. RFC
4691 Section 3.2  notes the
importance of maintaining perspective and avoiding potential conflicts
of interest:


      A liaison may not be able to maintain the required perspective if
      he or she is closely involved in the outcome of the work in the
      peer organization.  A conflict of interest might arise if the
      liaison is involved in the management of the relevant part of the
      peer organization, has a close technical involvement in the work
      that is the subject of the liaison, or has a close interest in the
      outcome of the work in the peer organization through his or her
      employment.  When appointing an appropriate person to manage a
      liaison relationship, the IAB needs to take into account any
      conflicts of interest that the individual being considered might
      have.  Before a person is appointed to manage a liaison
      relationship, he or she will be asked to explicitly state any
      conflicts of interest.  The IAB will not appoint a person to a
      liaison manager position if there is a strong conflict of
      interest.  For example, an individual with an industry or
      organizational leadership position in an organization would
      typically not be suitable for appointment as an IETF liaison to
      that organization.

In the discussions between the IAB and IESG, it appears that a number of
the issues encountered have related to situations where a liaison
manager is also active in the liaised SDO, and thus the above guidance
on "Distance" may be relevant.

Finally, we note that it is important to consider the role of the
liaison manager as documented in RFC 4052, RFC 4053, and RFC 4691. This
role is limited to reflecting and interpreting IETF consensus positions.
In particular, RFC 4691 Section 3.1 places strict requirements on the
mandate for IETF liaison managers:

  The mandate for IETF liaison managers is strictly limited to
  conveying IETF consensus to the liaised organization.  The liaison
  manager MUST NOT on their own initiative send liaison statements to a
  liaised organization on behalf of IETF, or any of its areas and
  working groups.  Liaison statements are only sent following the
  process specified in [RFC4052].  Liaison statements are only sent on
  the initiative of the IETF chair, the IAB chair, IETF Area Directors,
  or IETF working group chairs.

Since IETF working group chairs are charged with determining working
group consensus, working group chairs should be well-positioned to
perform the documented liaison manager role, in most cases. We believe
that having a sitting working group chair serve in (what should be) a
relatively mechanical liaison manager role should be much less awkward
than having a sitting AD serve in the same role.

We recognize that there are some cases where it's awkward for a working
group chair to serve, even in the limited liaison manager role. We
request that the IESG identify specific cases where working group chairs
are currently serving as liaison managers and shouldn't be, and the IAB
will replace these liaison managers.

The IAB does not see a need to continue having liaison managers serving
when that's awkward, and prefers to replace liaison managers, rather
than providing a second ("back-up") liaison manager who would step in
when things get awkward.

After discussion, the IAB believes that it's appropriate for an
interested group, under IAB direction, to provide strategic direction
and tactical guidance to liaison managers, so as to relieve the liaison
managers of the potential burden of acting beyond the mandate described
in RFC 4691 Section 3.1 

We propose that IAB Programs such as the IAB Liaison Oversight Program 
and the ITU-T Coordination Program act as those interested
groups. We expect that many ADs and working group chairs who are serving
as "liaison managers" would provide input as members of those programs. 
Spencer Dawkins and Andrei Robachevsky have developed a proposal for 
the organization of the liaison programs to accomplish these objectives. 

[For the IAB],
Bernard Aboba
IAB Chair
July 25, 2011