The Kaiser had long wanted a large naval force to assure Germany of what he called "a place in the sun." A large German navy could assist in German attempts to attain colonies, as well as further the country's economic and commercial interests elsewhere in the world. He was supported in his desires by Tirpitz, who was also enthusiastic for an expanded fleet.
The First Fleet Act, passed in 1898, stated Germany's aim to build up a navy for defensive purposes. However, the Second Fleet Act, passed in 1900, enunciated the German intention of building up a naval force that was capable of competing with that of Britain. It set a 17-year timetable for the construction of battleships, submarines, cruisers, and other types of naval vessels. By 1914, Germany possessed the second-largest navy in the world, at 60% of the strength of the Royal Navy.
The expansion of the German navy set off alarm bells in Britain (which was heavily dependent on overseas food imports and colonial resources), and Britain responded by beginning its own naval expansion. This expansion was overseen by Admiral Sir John Fisher, who served as First Sea Lord from 1905 to 1910. In 1906, the Royal Navy introduced the gigantic Dreadnought battleship as its newest and most formidable weapon. This action set off a naval arms race between Britain and Germany, which became a prominent source of tension between the two countries and proved to be a contributing factor in the outbreak of World War I.