I've received training on the East and West patent systems at the USPTO headquarters, and have had the opportunity to utilize both systems for research. I have no doubt that an updating of the software, hardware, and users interface would provide a huge increase in efficiency for the examiners and anyone else utilizing the system. While most of the major private patent and document database research firms have continually invested in their IT infrastructure, and deployed new analysis tools such as Latent Symantec Analysis, Advanced Keyword-based Linguistics Analysis, and others to supplement their Boolean-based interface, and even provide results in 3D and graphical formats, the USPTO system has shown little advancement. It might actually be more efficient for examiners to utilize private systems. This lack of technology coupled with the advanced technology covered in many new patent applications, and both internal and external pressures to eliminate the backlog has to be incredibly frustrating to examiners and is likely a large reason for the high turnover. The complexity of the technology, and thus the complexity of their patents, has been continually increasing, but the technology available to examiners has not. Other issues creating the high patent volume such as novelty are starting to be addressed, but solutions to these issues will not solve the analytical and research limitations. Spend the money that needs to be spent to bring the IT infrastructure up to date first, and then hire new examiners.
Lets do the math... $1B divided by 750,000 applications equals one (very) nice, new PC for each application!
Washington arithmetic again transcends any reasonable measure of reality.
What we need is a new unit of measure. Obviously, "$1B" is too easily spoken and written, and we need a better way to represent $10M or $50M or $200M, so that government guys can perhaps save a little money as they pound out these proposals on their word processors. Maybe we should switch to yen or bolivars.