The frustration with the RCE backlog has finally gotten patent office attention. Here’s your chance to include your comments. http://www.uspto.gov/blog/director/entry/wanted_your_ideas_and_feedback.
In think one major issue is that when you file an amendment and think you’ve clearly distinguished over the cited art, the examiner throws back a bogus 103 rejection and forces you to amend and file an RCE. Personal interviews can help with this, but that’s really expensive. I think an examiner should be required to call the applicant if the claims are close and try to work something out. That would go along way to reducing the backlog.