[Excerpt] There is nothing mysterious about economic conversion. Broadly speaking, it is the transformation of a manufacturing process making a certain end product to another activity leading to a different end product, but using the same human and material resources involved in the earlier process.

Corporations undertake economic conversion all the time. The American Standard Corp. changed one of its bathtub manufacturing plants in Macon, Georgia, into an electronics operation producing wire harnesses for rapid transit signaling systems. There was a two-year hiatus between the end of the porcelain operation and the start-up of wiring production, but the company rehired many of the former bathtub plant workers. Likewise, a Fremont, California, General Motors plant has converted from mid-size American car production to joint production with Toyota of a new subcompact model, using the same plant and many of the same employees.

In recent years the concept of economic conversion has taken on a more specialized meaning among political activists, trade unionists, disarmament organizers, economists and others concerned with the direction of U.S. employment policy and foreign policy. Here, economic conversion is seen as a strategy to solve a linchpin problem for advocates of cuts in military spending and of a move away from an interventionist foreign policy: what to do about the many jobs that would be eliminated by such a radical shift in government policies.