NEW YORK – The head of the U.S. agency responsible for inspecting offshore oil rigs says he wants to raise salaries and hire retired industry engineers to boost the competency of a staff that has been blamed for missing key problems with BP’s failed drilling operation in the Gulf.

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Oceans Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, needs to add inspectors and engineers to ensure that the oil industry is following new rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. He told The Associated Press that the government’s reputation for lower wages could make hiring the most talented people more difficult.

Bromwich plans to hire 30 inspectors and 30 engineers in coming months. His office has received 555 applications, including 131 from students, to fill the 60 positions and additional summer internships.

But many recruits could be lured away by more lucrative jobs with oil and gas companies.

For example, a petroleum engineer working for the government in New Orleans will make between $57,408 and $147,857 a year. The oil and gas industry can offer as much as $340,000.