Justin Reuter: From flying in the RAF to procurement

Proxima’s new Executive Advisor on how his move from serving on the front line to working in procurement, strategy and operations ensures that the defence sector is being steered by those who understand what is needed

Spend on UK Defence received a boost after the 2021 Integrated Defence and Security Review and continues to grow, but supply chain issues remain a challenge. Procurement is now central to security, and there are not many better placed than Proxima’s new Executive Advisor, Justin Reuter, to make sure the supply chain supports the defence sector.  

Reuter had a varied military career before shifting into procurement. He joined the RAF at 18 and after graduating from flying training, served as a fast jet navigator and Qualified Weapons Instructor. He used this operational experience to move into public procurement, starting out in the Defence Procurement Agency, now DE&S.  

The move from serving on the front line to working in procurement, strategy and operations ensures that the defence sector is being steered by those who really understand what is needed. As Justin puts it: “You want the best for your comrades. When you’re thinking about suppliers, you’re thinking about who it is that will be using the technology or weapons, your friends.” 

To Reuter, the best thing about working in the armed forces is the people. He explains: “It’s great to work with people who care so much and are passionate about what they do and who also have a great sense of humour!” During his time serving, he experienced challenges that were complex and sobering in equal measure.  

From the Balkans to the Middle East, he served in difficult environments, but it was those operational deployments that he found the most fulfilling. It is these experiences that mean people who understand what is at stake for those serving, are exactly the people needed to shape defence capabilities and procurement.  

How procurement can support the defence sector 

Reuter is still very passionate about the defence sector and making it the best it can possibly be. He is a staunch believer that by helping the industry get the best value, procurement can help address issues in the sector and ultimately make it a better place for those serving. To do this, the perspective of the user is vital. Defining user requirements and what is needed to deliver on that means the best and importantly the safest outcome for all. 

The defence industry is about protecting people, and therefore it’s vital that public money is being spent effectively. That is the end goal and what drives those who have served and are stepping into procurement. DE&S is effectively a defence system’s buyer spending billions every year. Without in-depth knowledge and experience, it would be difficult to know how to engage. 

Defence procurement is experiencing significant challenges in a post-Covid environment coupled with the impact of the Ukraine invasion. The complexity of the industry impacts procurement strategy, as Reuter puts it, “when you’re dealing with cutting-edge technology, it’s incredibly difficult to deliver a programme that is both time and cost-effective”.

There are many variables, like working with international suppliers with different approaches to operational use. It is, therefore, vital that the supplier network is used effectively to help deliver the best possible outcome. 

How Proxima can help  

Speaking on his new role at Proxima, Reuter said: “I want Defence to see the best value for money and know that Proxima can help achieve this.” It’s about taking the specialist supply chain and procurement knowledge, combined with Justin’s in-depth knowledge of Defence to identify where expertise is most needed and best applied.  

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