US Gov GAO Requests Meeting With ICANN CCWG-Accountability Chairs

UPDATE (March 31, 2015): "... the GAO is currently engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including members of this group. The list of questions provided is a generic one, and it is our understanding that, as far as we are concerned, the main expectation is to discuss about our process. Our key intent in this engagement will be focused on explaining our process, from the basic principles of the multistakeholder, open and transparent approach of the CCWG to the various steps we are taking to come up with WS1 proposals. Should the discussion come to contents, we will obviously stay within the grounds of tentative conclusions, as currently available to the public through, for instance, our co-chair statement. Taking note of some of the comments received, we will ask the GAO whether they would rather hear our update shortly or delay by a few weeks until our public comment is out..." -- Mathieu Weill, CCWG Co-Chair (emphasis added)

As disclosed Monday, March 30th, by ICANN's CCWG-Accountability Co-Chairs, the US Government Accountability Office [GAO] has requested a teleconference with the co-chairs of the CCWG (tentative date currently discussed is next week, 7 or 8 April). Included was the requesting email and attachment below from the GAO (emphasis added):

Subject : April 1, 2, or 3 Meeting Request CCWG-Accountability Chairs
Date : Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:45:11

Good day, Mr. Rickert, Mr. Sanchez Ambia, and Mr. Weill:

You may recall meeting my colleagues, Derrick Collins, Alwynne Wilbur, and Kate Perl at the ICANN meeting in Singapore in February. At any rate, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been asked by the Chairs of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its
Communications and Technology Subcommittee to review the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) proposed transition of key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. We are meeting with knowledgeable people and organizations to gather information for our work.

We would like to meet with you via teleconference to discuss the proposed transition from the perspective of the Accountability working group. We have provided a list of questions, below, to give you a better idea of the topics we want to discuss with you, and I’ll provide a teleconference line after confirming your availability (please “reply all” so that others can know of your availability). In addition to the discussion, we would also welcome written responses.

Would you be available for a one-hour time slot during one of the following blocks?
* Wednesday, April 1st : 10:00 – 11:00 EST
* Thursday, April 2nd : 11:00 – 12:00 EST
* Friday, April 3rd : 10:00 – 11:00 EST

We would also like to meet with Steve DelBianco and Cheryl Langdon-Orr to discuss their work with the Stress Test Work Party. Please let me know if you’d like to be part of that meeting, too.
Thank you, 

John Healey, Senior Analyst
Physical Infrastructure Team
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street NW, Washington DC, 20548

List of QuestionsGAO Engagement on the Internet Domain Name System - Discussion Guide - Background on GAO’s Engagement

GAO has been asked by the Chairs of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Communications and Technology Subcommittee to review the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) planned transition of its oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the global multistakeholder community. We are meeting with key people and organizations to gather input on
· the process used to develop a transition proposal and how the process considers risks associated with the transition as identified by stakeholders and
· The extent to which NTIA’s core requirements for the transition provide an effective framework to evaluate the transition proposal.

Topics for Discussion
1. What is your experience related to the IANA functions and NTIA’s role?
2. How would you describe NTIA’s current role with regard to the IANA functions (e.g., stewardship, administrative/clerical, backstop, etc)?
3. If you consider the implications of transitioning NTIA’s role to a global multistakeholder community, what are the potential risks, if any, that come to mind?
a. What risks can you identify if the transition does occur (i.e., such as any technical, operational, or accountability risks that are currently mitigated by NTIA’s contract with ICANN)?
b. What are the potential risks if the transition does not occur?
c. Are you aware of the list of contingencies being considered by the cross-community working group on enhancing ICANN accountability (CCWG-Accountability)? If so, to what extent do you think this is a comprehensive list? Which risks, if any, are present regardless of NTIA’s oversight role?

4. Who, specifically, of the multi-stakeholder community might be most impacted by a transition of NTIA’s role? Are these potentially-impacted stakeholders sufficiently represented by the discussion and efforts to develop a transition proposal?
a. [If stakeholder is from one of the multi-stakeholder constituency groups in ICANN] What is the process for raising concerns that arise from the perspective of your constituency to the multi-stakeholder community and to what extent do you think this process is effective in ensuring that all issues are considered in policy development and decision making?

5. What are the most important issues for the transition proposal to address? Do you have a view on what structure or approach could most effectively address these issues? 

6. What factors should be considered when evaluating transition proposals? To what extent do NTIA’s core requirements address potential risks? NTIA will require that the proposal:
a. supports and enhances the multistakeholder model of Internet governance,
b. maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet domain name system (DNS),
c. meets the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services;
d. maintains the openness of the Internet, and,
e. does not replace NTIA’s oversight role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.

The CCWG-Accountability discussion thread has been very active subsequent to the disclosure of the GAO request above--including this (emphasis added):

With due respect to all, I think you are overreacting and over thinking the GAO request quite a bit. Greg is precisely right that this is an invitation to a conversation – not something we can manage the scope of.  Either we say “no” or we say “yes” and if we say “yes” they will ask whatever they want to ask.  I should add that GAO is transparent – so the way they induce acceptance is their practice of noting on the public record who declined to speak with them in whole or in part.  That image: “We requested the opportunity to speak with the co-Chairs of the CCWG, but they declined our request ….” Is about the worst thing I could imagine for public confidence in our work.

More importantly, as Carlos correctly pointed out, though these are relatively modest staffers, their report when issued will have significant influence with Congress.  Now it may be that we don’t care about that – but assuming we do it is incumbent upon us to put our best foot forward.  If, hypothetically, the report found critical flaws in our work and reported same that would, even if completely incorrect, be very disruptive.  Conversely, if it lauds our work as thoughtful etc., it would be of great benefit to our efforts.  To the extent the report errs, if it does so because we did not engage we would have nobody but ourselves to blame.

So the bottom line is that, I think, we should say “yes” with some enthusiasm.  We have work product of which we are justifiably proud and if we can’t say that to the GAO, I would wonder why. To be sure, the co-chairs should not bind the CCWG and should make clear they do not speak “on behalf of” the group – but they can and should be authorized to tout our work as useful and an essential step to satisfying the NTIA (and, derivatively, Congress) that the transition will occur without a loss of accountability.

That having been said, I do think that the Co-Chairs might reasonably ask for an extra week or two – so that the meeting would occur after our proposal is released to the public for comment, as we anticipate will happen in mid-late April.  Then the Co-Chairs will have substance to talk about.  This is also something GAO will understand as they are often all about good process.  Bear in mind, however, that the GAO has deadlines of its own.  I believe I was told (though I can’t recall by whom) that the House Committee has demanded this report no later than June 30 …. -- Paul Rosenzweig

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