Your argument does make a lot of sense and I think I know how to argue it more effectively. However, how would you interpret this card differentiating research and exploration?
McNutt 6 ~ Marcia McNutt is the Chair of the Geoengineering Climate committee of the National Academy of Sciences, editor-in-chief of the journal Science, and former director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and science adviser to the United States Secretary of the Interior. “THE NATIONAL OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM ACT OF 2005 AND THE UNDERSEA RESEARCH PROGRAM ACT OF 2005”, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-109hhrg28758/html/CHRG-109hhrg28758.htm
Ocean exploration is distinguished from research by the fact that exploration leads to questions, while research leads to answers. When one undertakes exploration, it is without any preconceived notion of what one might find or who might benefit from the discoveries. Research, on the other hand, is undertaken to test a certain hypothesis, with the clear understanding of the benefits of either supporting or refuting the hypothesis under consideration. Often novel discoveries are made accidentally in the process of performing hypothesis-driven research, but with a purposeful exploration program, those discoveries are more likely to be appreciated for what they are, properly documented, and followed-up.¶ Here is a concrete example. One of the greatest surprises in oceanography in the 20th century was the discovery of the hot-vent communities, deep-sea oases that thrive in sea water geothermally heated to several hundred degrees centigrade. These animals form an entire ecosystem completely independent of the sun's energy, and their existence opens up huge new possibilities for how life might be sustained elsewhere in the universe. This discovery led to a host of new research questions. What is the energy source for this new style of community? How do proteins fold at such high temperatures? By what reproductive strategy do deep-sea vent organisms manage to find and colonize new, isolated vent systems as the old ones die? These are important questions, but ones that we would not know enough to even ask had the discovery not happened. And it almost didn't. The shipboard party involved was entirely geologists and geophysicists. There wasn't a single biologist on board to appreciate the significance of what was to become the most important discovery in marine biology. Ever. Lacking basic biological supplies, the geophysicists had to sacrifice all of their vodka to preserve the novel specimens they collected.¶ Such discoveries don't need to be rare, accidental, or potentially unappreciated with a strong, vigorous, and systematic ocean exploration program. I created a graphic (Figure 1) to show how NOAA's OE program might ideally relate to the broader ocean research agenda and to the NURP program.¶ The upper box is meant to represent NOAA's Ocean Exploration program. New discoveries are made by exploring new places, and/or by deploying new tools which ``see'' the ocean in new dimensions. With roughly 95 percent of the ocean still unexplored, and new tools that image the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the ocean at all scales being developed constantly, the opportunities for discovery are virtually limitless.
Also, this is what a lot of times the aff would bring up against me: From http://deepseanews.com/2012/10/we-need-an-ocean-nasa-now-pt-3/
In an agency with a chiefly applied mission, those programs that are purely exploratory must eventually invent an applied focus or face the axe. For example, even under NURP, exploration often focused on corals and fish of considerable economic and conservation importance rather than those species of greatest novelty or knowledge deficit. The current situation at NOAA also highlights how less applied scientific programs are likely to be lost.