Peace activist Sarah McCoy warns Utahns that the Reagan-era of military buildup is coming to an end and layoffs in defense industries will likely result.

Utah should diversify its economy to avoid devastation by the slowdown in the defense industry - a situation faced in some areas of McCoy's home state of Washington, she said.In a visit sponsored by Women Concerned About Nuclear War, McCoy addressed a group of nearly 50 people on the University of Utah campus this week.

"Why advocate diversification and conversion? Because we must stimulate the creation of alternatives to military employment. Otherwise the spiral of military pork-barrelling and the dangerous arms race that goes with it jeopardizes our future and our children's futures," McCoy said.

She encouraged Utahns to become involved in passing legislation similar to the laws she successfully pushed through the Washington Legislature. Her bills will fund a Washington State University study of the state's dependence on defense jobs. Now she has directed her efforts to a similar study of King County, home of the aerospace Boeing Co.

In the Tri-Cities area of eastern Washington, people ignored obvious warnings that the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near there was an aging nuclear reactor about to shut down. When the inevitable layoffs occurred last year, people were unprepared - even though they had been warned early in the 1960s. A diversification study of the Tri-Cities' economy is helping them explore new economic opportunities, she said.

McCoy does not want Utah to experience a similar economic collapse because of the state's overdependence on military employment.

According to the Bureau of Economic Statistics, nearly 30 percent of Utah jobs are military-related.

"Given that military spending will at least level out, you in Utah have a great opportunity to use Utah's independence to highlight the problem of dependence and begin to stimulate a homegrown economy."

Japan and West Germany have the healthiest economies in the world because the countries have based their economies on industry - not on military employment, she said.

It is a myth to believe that military spending is good for the economy, said McCoy. "During World War II, government war spending stimulated the economic activity that brought the country out of the Depression. But it wasn't military spending per se, it was spending - period. At the height of the war, the federal government was spending the equivalent of 42 percent of the gross national product.

She encouraged peace activists to propose creative alternatives for economic growth. "Diversification is simply prudent economic planning."