Network Working Group H. Alvestrand
Request for Comments: 3710 Cisco Systems
Category: Informational February 2004
An IESG charter
Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does
not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this
memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004). All Rights Reserved.
This memo provides a charter for the Internet Engineering Steering
Group (IESG), a management function of the Internet Engineering Task
Force (IETF). It is meant to document the charter of the IESG as it
is presently understood.
1.1. The Role of the IESG
The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) is the group
responsible for the direct operation of the IETF and for ensuring the
quality of work produced by the IETF.
The IESG charters and terminates working groups, selects their
chairs, monitors their progress and coordinates efforts between them.
The IESG performs technical review and approval of working group
documents and candidates for the IETF standards track, and reviews
other candidates for publication in the RFC series. It also
administers IETF logistics, including operation of the Internet-Draft
document series and the IETF meeting event.
1.2. Historic Note
The role of the IESG in the IETF management structure has been
largely constant since 1993, after the significant changes introduced
by the "POISED" process, and documented in RFC 1602 . (The
previous process was documented in RFC 1310 ; RFC 1602 has later
been updated by RFC 1871  and obsoleted by RFC 2026 .)
Some of the functions were also defined in RFC 1603 , Working
Group Guidelines, which was later obsoleted by RFC 2418 .
As the community has grown, and the IESG has gathered experience, the
ways in which the IESG has approached its tasks have varied
considerably, but the tasks have remained relatively constant.
This document describes the tasks assigned to the IESG. It does not
attempt to describe in detail the procedures the IESG uses to
accomplish these tasks; that is done elsewhere - consult the IESG's
Web pages on the IETF Website for more information .
At this time (spring 2003), the structure of the IETF is undergoing
reevaluation, and the result is likely to include changes to the
IESG's role. Therefore, this document was written as a
"documentation of existing practice" rather than as IETF consensus on
what the IESG should do.
This document is published as an Informational RFC, detailing the
current operations of the IESG. It does not claim to represent
consensus of the IETF that this is the right set of instructions to
2. The Composition of the IESG
The IESG has the following members:
o The IETF Chair, who also functions as the General Area Director
when this area is active
o The Area Directors (ADs) for the IETF Areas
o The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) Chair and the IETF Executive
Director, as ex-officio members of the IESG.
The IETF Chair and the Area Directors are selected by the IETF NomCom
according to the procedures of BCP 10  (Nomcom procedures).
The IETF Executive Director is the person charged with running the
The IESG also has liaisons, who are members of the IESG mailing list
and may attend all IESG meetings. The Liaison positions exist to
facilitate the work of the IETF by expediting communication with
other entities involved in the IETF process; which positions to have
are decided by the IESG.
The liaisons are selected as appropriate by the bodies they
represent. At the time of this writing, the liaisons present
represent the following bodies:
The RFC Editor
In addition, members of the IETF Secretariat are subscribed to the
mailing list and present in the IESG meetings as needed in order to
serve as a support function.
IESG decisions are made by the IETF Chair and the Area Directors.
All IESG members can participate in the IESG's discussions.
3. Procedural Issues
While the IESG is generally free to set its own procedures, some
parts of its procedures are properly part of its charter. These are
3.1. Decision Making
The IESG attempts to reach all decisions unanimously. If unanimity
cannot be achieved, the chair may conduct informal polls to determine
consensus. There is no general rule on how the IESG takes votes; if
this had ever been needed, it is likely that the same rule as for the
IAB would be used (decisions may be taken if at least two thirds of
the members concur and there are no more than two dissents).
For the purpose of judging consensus, only the IETF Chair and the
Area Directors are counted.
The IESG may decide that other procedures for reaching a decision are
appropriate under specific conditions. Such other procedures may
o Assertions of IETF consensus, such as when evaluating a standards
action. Here, in addition to the technical quality of the
specification, the IESG has to evaluate the community opinion
about the specification's subject matter; this has to happen with
due notice and opportunity for community feedback.
o IESG actions in areas where the IESG has the authority to take
action. This does not need special rules.
o AD actions taken with the advice and consent of the IESG; the IESG
is expected to be kept informed, and gives comment, but the
authority to act is delegated to the AD.
o AD action; cases where an AD can take independent action without
needing to consult the IESG first.
The IESG may reach decisions by face to face meeting,
teleconferencing, Internet communication, or any combination of the
3.2. Openness and Confidentiality
The IESG publishes a record of decisions from its meetings on the
Internet, and conducts an open meeting at every IETF meeting. It
publishes more detailed documentation of decisions as RFCs, Internet
Drafts or messages to the IETF-announce mailing list, with copies
kept on the IETF website when appropriate.
The IESG also has private group discussions, using any means of its
choice, including email. Records of those discussions are not
required to be made public. This is believed to be vital in
permitting a frank exchange of viewpoints and worries, allowing
people to speak out freely on topics known to be controversial, and
permitting people to change their minds based on presented arguments.
Decisions and their justification are a matter of public record.
However, discussion of personnel matters and possibly legal and
financial matters may sometimes be required to be kept confidential,
and the chair may, with the consent of the full members, exclude
liaison and ex officio members whose presence is seen as
inappropriate for the particular discussion.
The chair may also exclude members and liaisons who have a serious
conflict of interest on an issue (although this has never been
enacted). Members can also choose to recuse themselves from
discussion of an issue, or refrain from participating in a particular
ballot, if they feel it is appropriate.
4. The IESG Role in Working Group Management
The IESG is in charge of managing the working group process. While
the process of managing a working group is assigned to the working
group chairs, the IESG is in charge of those processes that are
beyond the scope of the working group chair's role. Most of these
functions are delegated by the IESG to a single Area Director - the
"responsible Area Director" for the group.
4.1. Working Group Creation
The formation of working groups is described in BCP 25 , section
2; this document does not repeat the text there, but gives additional
details of IESG actions.
A Working Group (WG) may be requested by members of the IETF
community, who address the request to an AD that the requesters feel
is the appropriate AD for the task, or the formation can be initiated
by an AD. The IESG may assign the prospective working group to
another AD and/or Area if the IESG thinks that is best.
The AD is responsible for ensuring that a working group being
chartered fulfills the criteria for WG formation given in BCP 25.
The charter is the result of a negotiation between the AD and the
community of interest, with review and advice from the rest of the
IESG and the IAB.
The AD, with the advice of the IESG, is also responsible for
selecting chairs for the working group which the AD thinks will be up
to the task.
All charters for proposed working groups are announced to the
community at large when the IESG thinks the charter is ready for
review, but prior to the IESGs final decision on chartering the WG.
The final decision to charter a WG is an IESG decision.
The Birds of a Feather (BOF) procedure described in BCP 25 ,
section 2.4 also requires approval from the relevant AD (the one who
got the request or the AD that the IESG thinks is the right AD to
manage the task). A BOF is not required to start a working group,
and a BOF may be held without the purpose of creating a working
group. BOFs are also often discussed with the IESG and IAB.
4.2. Working Group Management
The role of the Area Director in WG management is described in BCP 25
, section 6.7.
The role of managing a WG is divided between the WG Chair(s) and the
A WG chair has to manage the working group "from the inside", dealing
with individuals, drafts, proposals, meetings and email lists, and
has full power and responsibility to do that.
An AD manages a WG "from the outside", dealing with charters, chairs,
cross-WG and cross-area relationships and so on.
The AD is responsible for making sure the working groups stay focused
on the charter tasks, make forward progress, are coordinated with the
rest of the area, and are coordinated with the rest of the IETF. The
ADs help each other with maintaining cross-area coordination.
In a well functioning working group, main responsibility for these
things rests with the chairs; the AD will normally be able to
concentrate on supporting the working group chairs' work.
When a WG finds that it is essential that work gets done which is not
on its charter, the AD, consulting with the rest of the IESG as
required, is responsible for figuring out whether to add it to their
charter, add it to another group's charter, task someone outside the
WG to work on it, or initiate creation of another WG.
Substantive changes to the body of a WG's charter require the same
type of process as chartering - see BCP 25 , section 5.
The Area Director is also responsible for picking and, when
necessary, replacing working group chairs. This is done in
consultation with the IESG, but the decision is made by the
4.3. Working Group Termination
Terminating a WG is a decision of the responsible AD.
A working group may be shut down when its work is complete, or when
the AD concludes that letting the working group continue its work no
longer contributes to the IETF's progress.
The decision to terminate a working group is announced, giving the
reason for termination.
5. The IESG Role in Document Review
The IESG is expected to ensure that the documents are of a sufficient
quality for release as RFCs, that they describe their subject matter
well, and that there are no outstanding engineering issues that
should be addressed before publication. The degree of review will
vary with the intended status and perceived importance of the
When there are problems or solutions that occur frequently, the IESG
may publish documents describing the problems and how to avoid them,
such as "IANA considerations" (BCP 26 ), or publish web pages with
commonly used guidelines.
Rules - stuff that the community is expected to follow - are decided
by IETF consensus processing and commonly published as BCP RFCs.
Guidance to the community that is of a more ephemeral and less
normative nature is decided by the IESG and published on the IESG's
5.1. Working Group Documents
This role is described in BCP 25 , section 7.5 and 8, and BCP 9
, section 6. The IESG role is one of review and approval.
5.2. Non-Working Group Documents
5.2.1. Standards-Track Documents
This role, which applies to Proposed, Draft, Standard and BCP
processing, is described in BCP 9 , section 6. Such documents are
submitted to the IESG, and are then assigned to a relevant AD. The
IESG is responsible for determining:
o Whether or not the specification is appropriate for the standards
o Whether or not the specification needs review by one or more
o Whether or not the quality of the specification is adequate
The IESG will either approve or disapprove of the publication of the
document on the standards track; no document can be published on the
standards track without IESG approval.
The IESG may decide that a document submitted for standards-track
publication should instead be published as Experimental or
Informational, or that a document submitted for Proposed standard
should be published as a BCP, or vice versa.
5.2.2. Informational and Experimental Documents
These documents are normally submitted to the RFC Editor in
accordance with the procedures of BCP 9 , section 4.2.3 and BCP 25
, section 8. The IESG is asked to review all documents submitted
in this fashion for conflicts with the IETF standards process or work
done in the IETF community; this is a modification of the BCP 9 
procedure, and documented in BCP 25 , section 8.
The IESG may recommend that the document be published as-is, that it
be reviewed by a working group, that the document be published with
an IESG note indicating issues such as conflict with the IETF
standards process, or may recommend that the document not be
If the document is referred to a WG, the WG can recommend that the
document be adopted as a WG document, that it be published (possibly
with comments), or that the IESG recommend to the RFC Editor that it
not be published. The responsible AD for the WG is responsible for
getting a response from the WG in a timely manner.
An AD, in consultation with the author, may choose to put an
individual's document directly before the IESG, without waiting for
the document to be submitted through the RFC Editor. This document
will then be processed in the same fashion as an Informational or
Experimental document from a working group.
5.3. IESG Review Procedures
The IESG review procedures are defined by the IESG.
The IESG is responsible for conducting the process in a timely manner
with appropriate communication.
For all documents, the IESG assigns a specific AD the responsibility
of shepherding the document; that AD will normally review the
document, and possibly ask for revisions to it to address obvious
problems, before asking the entire IESG to consider it for
The IESG has web pages as part of the IETF web (www.ietf.org);
current details of procedures, as well as the means of finding the
responsible AD for any document, are published there.
6. The IESG Role in Area Management
The IETF divides its work into a number of areas, each comprised of
working groups that relate to that area's focus (BCP 25 , section
1). The area structure is defined by the IESG, and the IESG can add
areas, redefine areas, merge areas, change the number of ADs assigned
to an area, or close down areas.
Changes to the area structure affect the IETF in many ways; decisions
to change the area structure are taken in consultation with the
When changing the area structure, the IESG can decide which members
are responsible for new and changed areas, including making one
sitting AD responsible for multiple areas, but the IESG can only add
new members through the nomcom process.
The primary task of area management is handled by one or two Area
Directors per area. An AD may be advised by one or more
directorates, which are created, selected, chaired and if necessary
disbanded by the AD (BCP 25 , section 1). Directorates may be
specific to an area, specific to a technology, or chartered in some
The ADs for an area are jointly responsible for making sure the WGs
in the area are well coordinated, that there is coverage for the
technologies needed in the area, and that the challenges most
important to the Internet in that area are indeed being worked on.
The IESG decides which areas working groups belong to.
7. Other IESG Roles
7.1. Staff Supervision
The IETF Chair has primary responsibility for supervising the work of
the IETF Secretariat, with the advice and consent of the IESG, the
IAB Chair and the ISOC president.
The supervision of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and
RFC-Editor functions is handled by the IAB.
7.2. Process Management
The IESG is responsible for making sure the IETF process is
functional in all aspects. This includes taking responsibility for
initiating consideration of updates to the process when required, as
well as addressing obvious miscarriages of process, even when they do
not fall into the categories described above.
7.3. External Relations
The responsibility for handling external relations rests with the
IAB, as described in the IAB Charter (RFC 2850 ). However, when
technical cooperation is required, it is essential that the work be
coordinated with the relevant ADs. This often means that ADs will
function in a liaison role with other organizations, but the IAB may
decide that the same function may also be done by others when it
decides that this is more appropriate.
7.4. Appeals Actions
The formal appeals procedure is described in BCP 9 , section 6.5.
Most decisions by a working group chair can be appealed to the AD,
and decisions by an individual AD can be appealed to the IESG.
Decisions of the IESG can be appealed to the IAB; for this reason,
the IAB chair and the liaison from the IAB recuse themselves from
discussion of appeals to the IESG.
8. Security Considerations
The security of the Internet depends on standards giving proper
thought to security. Apart from that, there seems to be no
considerations of security relevant to this memo.
This work has been supported, aided and abetted by the whole IESG at
the time of this writing, and has benefited from many other comments.
Thanks to David Putzolu, Pekka Savola, John Klensin, Margaret
Wasserman, Brian Carpenter, Fred Baker, Jonne Soininen, Robert Elz,
Keith Moore, Pete Resnick, Dave Crocker, Vint Cerf, Steve Coya and
all others who provided comments on various versions of this
10.1. Normative References
 Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP
9, RFC 2026, October 1996.
 Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", BCP
25, RFC 2418, September 1998.
 Galvin, J., "IAB and IESG Selection, Confirmation, and Recall
Process: Operation of the Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP
10, RFC 2727, February 2000.
10.2. Informative References
 Chapin, L., "The Internet Standards Process", RFC 1310, March
 Huitema, C. and P. Gross, "The Internet Standards Process --
Revision 2", RFC 1602, March 1994.
 Huizer, E. and D. Crocker, "IETF Working Group Guidelines and
Procedures", RFC 1603, March 1994.
 Postel, J., "Addendum to RFC 1602 -- Variance Procedure", BCP 2,
RFC 1871, November 1995.
 Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an IANA
Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26, RFC 2434, October 1998.
 Carpenter, B., Ed., "Charter of the Internet Architecture Board
(IAB)", BCP 39, RFC 2850, May 2000.
11. Author's Address
Harald Tveit Alvestrand
5245 Arboretum Dr
Los Altos, CA
12. Full Copyright Statement
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