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Close-up: Suzanne Sincavage

IDIQ carves out niche in bioterrorism defense, wins prime contract

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Through good timing, foresight, determination, research, a little help and lots of hard work, Suzanne Sincavage has relatively quickly risen to the ranks of being a defense industry prime contractor.

Her company, IDIQ Inc. -- for which she is chief executive officer, owner and the sole employee -- received a prime contract in May to provide professional support services and bioterrorism defense.

"This opportunity for me to be a prime contractor as a woman-owned small business is unheard of," she said. "I've been told it's because of my bioterrorism niche, because of my doctorate in bioterrorism.

"But it's the timing. Timing is everything."

Timing -- both good and bad -- has played a large role in getting Sincavage to this point in her career.

Sincavage grew up as an "Army brat," moving around with her family while her father pursued his military career. He died when she was still a child. But he left behind his passion to serve his country and a GI Bill that allowed his daughter to realize her dreams.

"If my dad had never served this country I would have never gone to school on his GI Bill," she said. "I felt the most important thing for me to do was to give back to my country and continue what my dad did for this country."

A military career was not right for her, but she was determined to find her own way to serve.

She had an interest in medicine, and spent 18 years in the pharmaceutical industry in the area of infectious disease.

She was walking down the hallways at a clinical trial one day in the mid-to-late-1990s when she stumbled upon an infectious disease lecture with Michael Osterholm, who co-authored "Living Terrors: What America needs to know to survive the coming bioterrorist catastrophe."

She walked out of the room with a new mission.

"I walked in there and sat down, and he totally changed the course of my life," Sincavage said.

"I said, 'I am going to weave it into the fabric of my Ph.D.' It's in my degree. I made it my mission."

She received a Ph.D. in Public Health, Epidemiology with specialization in Biological Terrorism from the Union Institute and University.

Of course, focusing on bioterrorism in a pre-Sept. 11, 2001 world wasn't an easy sell.

"My Ph.D. committee said to me: 'This is crazy. This is never going to happen. You shouldn't even be writing about this stuff,'" she said. "But I felt it. It's the poor man's bomb.

"Instead of getting scared, I got passionate and proactive about it."

Her foresight and persistence helped her receive her first big prime contract from the government.

Sincavage said she cannot release the exact amount of the contract, but said it is significant. The DoD announcement of the contract does not list an exact amount.

The work being done under the contract is top secret, and Sincavage cannot discuss the specifics. But she did say that her proposal when applying for the contract was to look at existing technologies and finding new applications for them.

For example, one could take a thermodynamic sensor and use it to take the temperature of people at airports, she said.

The contract includes 22 functional service areas, all of which are listed on the IDIQ Web site, idiqinc.us.

Life has been a whirlwind for Sincavage since she opened the company in 2008, receiving a prime contract within a matter of months.

"I just feel so blessed that I got into this," she said. "I got discouraged sometimes -- (the contracting process) took a long time -- but when I got the notification I got this prime contract, I couldn't work for two days I was so stunned."

It might be a blessing, but it's also a result of her tireless work toward her goal.

Sincavage spent two or three years researching the industry before deciding to jump in and apply for a contract.

She now is working on the first task order and forming the best partnerships.

But she says she couldn't have gotten where she is today without the help and guidance of many people, especially Tim Warren and James Lasswell.

Warren was her contact at the San Diego Contracting Opportunity Center, also known as Procurement Technical Assistance Center or PTAC. He got her started on the contracting idea, Sincavage said.

And Lasswell, president and CEO of INDUS Technology Inc. and co-chairman of the small business committee for the National Defense Industrial Association's San Diego Chapter, has provided her with support and guidance as she continues to build her business, she said.

Starting a business is expensive and time consuming. So she was especially happy to find that all of the important information and help she needed came free.

"The most valuable information I've received was free," she said. "There are people in government that are willing to help you. They're willing to talk to you."

As Sincavage continues working hard to build IDIQ Inc., she hopes to expand into other agencies.

"I'd like to see myself doing this same work covering all agencies," she said. "Homeland security and defending our nation, I think, bleeds out into every area, and every single agency has to play a role in defending our country."

But she will keep an eye out for good timing to realize more of her dreams.

Ultimately, she said she would like to be in a financial position that allows her to start an organization to support science, technology and math education.

Very few women get the opportunity to go back to school and get advanced degrees in those fields, she said, and she wants to help.

"I would like to create that -- to fund women to go to school," she said. "If I had all the money in the world I would fund educational opportunities for women to become proficient in science, technology and math.

"I'll know I've made it if I do that."

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